The Rich Get Richer

Posted by Deepish Thinker on August 04, 2009
Economics, Football, US Culture / No Comments

Sports Illustrated columnist Andy Staples is very concerned that a down economy plus a trend towards big revenue TV deals for the major conferences means that the ‘haves’ in college sports will be increasing their edge over the ‘have nots’.

On Monday, Florida coach Urban Meyer agreed to a six-year contract that will pay him $4 million a year. Earlier this year, the Alabama state university system’s trustees approved earlier a $80.6 million project that will expand Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium to accommodate more than 101,000 fans. Meanwhile, on the other end of the Football Bowl Subdivision food chain, Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan last week took a voluntary seven percent pay cut to help offset a projected $2.6 million deficit for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

I’m actually a little skeptical of this argument.  College football royalty like Florida already get the best coaches, the best facilities and (most importantly) its choice of the best players.  So it is far from certain that an increased budget will generate any better results.  Will Urban Meyer be a better football coach because his salary went up by $750K per year?

Like most human endeavors, college football is subject to diminishing returns.  Beyond a certain point adding resources to a football program like Florida’s is really just padding costs.  Where the increasing big school revenue advantage is likely to pay off is the non-revenue sports.  The excess revenue generated by the football and basketball programs can buy those big money schools a lot of wins in soccer, tennis, track and swimming.

Running Up The Score

Posted by Deepish Thinker on October 31, 2007
Football, US Culture / No Comments

The current scandal of the week in the NFL is the “poor sportsmanship” shown by New England Patriots when they continued to play aggressively against the Washington Redskins long after the result of the game was beyond doubt (a Google news search on “running up the score” this afternoon yielded over 600 hits).

Sportsmanship aside, there are practical reasons for taking your foot off the gas in these situations. Taking key players out of the game eliminates the risk of injury to those players and also allows their backups to gain valuable game experience. While this is a perfectly valid argument, there are several equally practical considerations that may have led Bill Bellicheck to keep the starters on:

  1. It is difficult for the starters to prepare for a 60 minute grudge match against a good team, like for example the Colts (their next opponent), sitting on the sideline. As bad as the Redskins proved to be, there is no substitute for game time.
  2. It appears that Bellicheck is trying to foster a play full throttle for 60 minutes mentality, which is just the kind of mindset that you would want a team with superbowl aspirations to have.
  3. Absolutely walloping the Redskins, who were considered to have a solid defense, is the kind of thing that puts fear in the minds of the Patriots future opposition and gives them an advantage every time they step on the field.
  4. It was a home game and the home fans did not buy their expensive tickets to see the second string come on in the third quarter and run out the clock. They came to see Tom Brady score touchdowns, which is exactly what they got.

Considering the sportsmanship aspect, it seems incredible that playing hard play hard till the final whistle could possibly be considered incompatible with sporting values. This attitude is certainly not prevalent in other sports. In soccer it is considered insulting to the opposition to substitute in second string players regardless of the score. While in rugby, kicking for points (rather than attempting to score tries) while sitting on a big lead is liable to get a team vigorously booed.

From my own experience of being on the short end of sporting blowouts, there is nothing worse than a team that lets up on you. There is a particularly hollow feeling that comes from not being worthy of an opponent’s best effort and little to no satisfaction in consolation points scored against a team that isn’t really trying to stop you.

Regardless of what you believe to be sporting, calling the game early is not what fans pay to see and is definitely not what professional athletes are very well paid to do.