By September 30, 2013 10:01PM [link]

What's the deal with boosters in college football? Let's compare college football and the NFL, money-wise:

On the revenue side, teams have: ticket sales, TV and Radio contracts, merchandise and stadium subsidies from municipalities/schools. These are (probably?) largely similar between college and the NFL. NFL teams probably have more corporate sponsors and luxury boxes in their stadiums. And of course college teams have boosters.

On the expense side, NFL teams have player salaries which college teams do not. Both have extensive on- and off-field staffs, and various other expenses which I'm not thinking of but are probably roughly similar between the NFL and colleges. NFL teams are private businesses and are supposed to pay income taxes, but if MLB teams are any indication, they are likely using all sorts of tricks to show near-break-even operation every year while the owners take their profits when they sell the teams.

So college teams are missing one significant expense (player salaries), and major programs have one significant extra revenue source (boosters). I have a hard time believing that corporate sponsors are making up this much difference. I would love to compare the balance sheet of a major college program with that of an average NFL team. But of course we'll never be able to do that.

Boosters are powerful figures, influential in recruiting players, selecting coaches, changing the entire direction of college programs. (Oregon's Phil Knight is a prime example.) Not all of the influence is positive of course. Evan Brennan has an interesting 2011 piece on boosters describing their pros and cons, noting that:

Recruiting violations, financial improprieties, and other NCAA and criminal scandals have occurred hundreds of times over and over again due to the influences of boosters.

Ultimately, I suppose, boosters are just another way in which college sports are becoming increasingly moneyed, increasingly a world of haves and have-nots, and decreasingly about school spirit and fun athletic competitions. They're just another big-money prime-time sports presentation, no different from the NFL. Can we pay the players already and remove the silly requirement that they actually be matriculated students at their respective schools?

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