With all of the talk about the future of the ND football program and coach around campus and in the New York Times (here and here), I thought it might be time to take another look at the economics of the program.
A recent Scholastic article by Marques Camp looked at “The big business of college sports and the players who play them.” According to the article, the football program alone brought in $59.8 million in revenue and $23.3 million in profits from a combination of merchandising and apparel licensing, ticket sales, and its NBC television contract (which was just renewed to pay up to $9 million per year for exclusive rights to broadcast the homes games).
Camp asks the obvious and important question:
Given the amount of revenue that the Notre Dame and many other well-known athletic programs generate, many student-athletes and other critics wonder where the student-athletes fair share of the profits is. NCAA bylaws prohibit the payment and commercial use of student-athletes, else they compromise their amateur status and, consequently, their collegiate eligibility.
The article discusses the complexity of the situation and the vast differences in viewpoints. One member of the football team calls it “essentially modern-day slavery.” ND finance professor Richard Sheehan points out that allowing the market to dictate athletes wages “would have a minimal impact on most athletes and send most football programs even deeper into the red.”
Whatever the ‘fair share’ of profits might be, one thing is certain: the players have no say. Nor do they have any say in the new coach, even as the most directly affected actors. As explained by Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, “Every meaningful decision that involves athletics involves two people, it’s Father John and I.” And the fans are largely left out too, which is too bad because we do have plenty on our minds about NBC’s generous use of commercial breaks.