Running The Show

Anyone who has ever searched for a televised sports game recently can understand that finding it is like exploring the sea for hidden treasure with no map. From thousands of channels and several different versions of the same network (such as ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, etc.) the task is cake walk. After encountering this situation one would possibly ask themselves why am I paying for so many channels that are useless or I do not even watch? The answer to this dilemma is both simple and convoluted. The solution lies behind the business between professional sport leagues and media companies. This includes how NBC currently has the rights to Sunday Night Football and a few playoff games, while ESPN has the rights to Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl. The rest of the games and events for both football and the rest of the leagues are separated between other networks. Each network must decide how much they can bid on the rights for each sport and game. Ironically enough, these deals for how sports programs will be broadcasted to the nation ultimately hurt the viewer, but benefit the players and (already wealthy) league executives.

In 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed a 25 year deal, worth about $8.5 billion, with Time Warner Cable. For those who are subscribed to TWC  and want to fulfill their desire of watching Dodger baseball are forced to shell out more than $4 a month. Keep in mind that this is just for ONE team and only one sport. In that same year, fees for sport program subscriptions were expected to rise by about 12%, to $17.2 billion. This presents an interesting decision for the television audience. Why continue to pay enormous and ever-inflating costs for sports programs across several channels, when there are much cheaper options? Users are continuing to lean towards choosing Internet services that are offered at lower costs or are even free! For example, ESPN can cost a consumer about $6.10. Now, viewers have options including streaming services, online viewing or, recently, Twitter has experimenting with live streaming a Thursday night football game. Due to these varying options and growing prices, consumers will continue to move away from cable outlets. However, due to the demand and inflation, bidding costs for broadcasting rights will always grow. The problem here is that there is going to be a smaller number of viewers, but higher costs each year. And for users with no internet connection, or those who are not tech savvy (such as the elderly), they will have to pay in full.

Now, on the other side of the screen, players, executives, and the professional sports leagues are reaping the benefits of these lucrative media contracts. For example, this past summer the National Basketball Association (NBA) and TNT inked a massive $24 billion dollar contract that spans that next 9 years. This bump in income for the NBA has helped the salary cap for each team progress from $70 million to $94 million. Ultimately, this will help teams across the Association to lure free agents to their team. Also, the possibility of securing a massive contract encourages athletes to perform at their personal bests at all times. For example, a decent player named Mike Conley was able to cash in on a 5 year contract worth close to $153 million dollars. In return, viewers will be able to watch a better product on the field, but at what cost?
This situation actually also benefits college athletes despite them not ever seeing a dollar of the contract. The most lucrative college conference, the SEC is in the midst of a 15 year, 2.25 billion dollar contract with ESPN. Now, potential athletes can be lured to commit due to the fact that their talents will be showcased on the top sports program in the world. The fact that March Madness players are worth up to $375,000 each and do not see a penny is a topic for a completely different blog though.

All in all, cable bills are mounting and viewers are leaving for more cost savvy options. Channels that used to place reruns and movies in empty slots have lost parts of the audience due to the new services available. However, 99% of viewers watch sports live, so the spots were sports programs can fill have become extremely valuable. It is sad to see that the people who just want to watch a game are paying high costs to see players who hold fruitful contracts broadcasted by media companies able to ink billion dollar contracts.

Betting On The Madness

It’s March! So, what else could a person charged with focusing on college sports issues write about but March Madness? It also appears to be the time of ultimate hypocrisy in our world – and this got me thinking about the main subject matter of our time spewing hypocritical. For example, political leaders exhibiting the exact behavior they criticized their opponents for and swore never to do and new enticing communication platforms that actually curtail human communication. Perhaps best of all, the NCAA stating that it opposes all forms of gambling; legal or illegal, yet tweeting to the world before the 2015 tournament “No better feeling than filling out brackets in March!” and “Complete Yours Today!”.

Everyone with a pulse and a TV in this country knows that you fill out the bracket so that you can enter yourself into a pool at work, online or with some other organization.  The point being, that you pay a fee to enter your picks in hopes of winning a cash prize. No one truly believes that all the people involved in pools are really avid college basketball fans. And certainly millions of people do not follow the early rounds due to their lack of suspense. March Madness has become part of pop culture and a way to feel included in the national conversation at the office, with friends or at home at night with your family, with the added potential of increasing your cash assets. According to Investopedia, the NCAA will earn around $900 million in revenue from the tournament, which represents approximately 90% of their total annual revenue. Therefore, knowing that the betting element adds to the overall excitement, which in turn increases viewership and produces better advertising dollars for CBS and Turner Broadcasting, gambling is essential to the health of the NCAA. Let’s face it, when the NCAA provides just a blank bracket for you to fill out – they are basically asking you to pick the winners you want to bet on.  The national betting component is directly associated with the increase in viewership, and therefore a vital necessity to the only way the NCAA gets funded.  It is as simple as that.

What is not as simple is coming to terms with the fact that only a small portion of the bets are placed legally.  In fact, the American Gambling Association issued a press release on March 13, 2017 stating that “of the $10.4 billion wagered on the tournament in 2017, only about 295 million will be legally through Nevada sport books”. This means $10.1 billion is wagered illegally! Now just think of what we could do with a portion of the entire pot if the government would just admit what is true. Every American knows that people bet on March Madness and most see nothing wrong with this one-time betting event. Every news and entertainment program talks about the picks and even encourages it. If everyone is of the same understanding and accept that gambling is a part of the culture of college sports, especially the NCAA Basketball Tournament, why not find a way to use it to everyone’s advantage?

Finally, this issues reminds me of a story about New Jersey, my home state, in the 1970’s. When casinos were legalized in the state in 1974, elderly citizens (such as my great grandmother) received monthly checks from a portion of the gambling profits to be used for medical expenses and such. This money was coming from the same people who had recently been caught running numbers. Soon, the government decided to reverse this action and ended up passing an action that basically put the money back in the pocket of the people previously convicted, instead of monthly checks to those in need.

In the end, there is so much hypocrisy surrounding gambling.  But in the case of March Madness, where an entire nation is involved at the same time of the year for the exact same duration and in the exact method, why not declare the event a special approved betting game much like the lottery tickets that are sold nation-wide.  In this way, a portion of the betting pool profits can be distributed to setting up scholarships for college, or funding music and arts programs, or creating special vocational schools. Instead, the money is typically sent back to schools and conferences that already rake in major profits from their teams and TV deals.  Whereas most gambling bets favor the house, here we could have our student population come out as the winners, and that is a sure winner everytime!


Deliberation Reflection

On Tuesday, February 28th I attended a deliberation entitled “College Tuition: Paying for a Better Future?” and I was definitely pleased with the outcome. The team opened with addressing the fact that all people will agree that in a perfect world, college would be free. Yet, obviously that can not happen due to tax systems, constantly dueling political parties, and other factors. So, they asked what ways in which tuition could be lowered and how college could be accessible to all people. It was from here that members of the deliberation group broke into smaller teams and joined the audience to address the problems together. I felt in this way, at least for me, the audience was more inclined to engage and voice their own opinions on the matter. The team leaders worked to move us along from each approach, but were still eager to hear our personal thoughts on the topic. Moving from the team to the actual deliberation, this is a point that all college students should have an opinion, so I was ready to speak my mind. The first approach was analyzing how the government could aid in the fight for making college more affordable. My small group mostly focused on how and if it would be possible to generate a base tuition cost for all colleges around the country. From there we ran into the problem whether certain universities, such as the Ivy League schools, should cost more based on their reputation. We also touched upon another popular suggestion in that the government could increase taxation and state legislation spending, but also make public universities free. However, after some research I found that this is not realistically possible. Main problems with this include maintaining state investment and the risk of taxing Wall Street, in light of another recession or crash.

The group then presented Approach Two which looked at what both students and family could do themselves to help ease the pain of college tuition. The main point some audience members touched upon was how high school students should take advantage of AP Courses considering they prepare students for higher education and are cheaper options for completing required courses. This actually turned out to be a contentious point as most of the audience had participated in AP testing and had differing opinions. Initially, I was pro-AP testing as it had helped me fulfill a college requirement for only $90. After research though, I find myself on the fence of this argument. A report from The Washington Post argued many positive points about AP’s, but mostly that it does not help students prepare for school. This is because in many cases, universities will not accept AP credits or make students retake classes crucial to their major.

Finally, we discussed Approach Three and examined what steps could be taken by universities to aid students. The main points of debate were whether general education (GE) courses were worth the money and if universities correctly spend money. Personally, I believe that most GE courses are not worth the money and do not positively contribute to one’s education. I say this from personal experience, as many college students routinely look for the easiest and most irrelevant courses to only boost their GPA. In fact, an article from Forbes reports that a small number of universities “have curricular requirements that come close to ensuring that their students receive a solid general education.” Obviously, there are GE’s that aid students in their majors, but it seems that very few contribute to shaping the student into a well-rounded student. We also mentioned that universities that should do a better job of prioritizing money to help students instead of only benefiting their reputation.
All in all, this deliberation was definitely inspiring as I was able to see both sides of an argument that I believed to only have one clear solution. In the end we all agreed that despite there being different ways of approaching this dilemma, college tuition is a nightmare for most families and should be addressed.


Paying Top Dollar



In all reality most people understand that when it is broken down to its most simple state, professional and collegiate sports are glorified
businesses. Yet, since professional leagues have different bodies presiding over them depending on the sport, we will focus on the NCAA. It is the behemoth of a organization that controls all aspects of every college sport in the United States of America.In 2014 the National Collegiate Athletic Association pulled in just under $1 billion dollars.According to, slightly more than 90% of that money is put back into the system and aids student-athletes. This still leaves the “not for profit” with almost $10 million to distribute among its employees. About $2.7 billion is even spent on athletic scholarships each year. It is clear that the organization cares about the student-athletes’ successes and wellbeing, to a degree. After all, they are the ones bringing in the money and drawing excitement for each game However, how about the schools these athletes are playing for? The scholarship fact may sound nice, but put into perspective it is not that impressive. The top grossing universities spent 3.5 times more on their coaches than those scholarships for the players and double for new buildings and restoration projects. So, it seems as if those student-athletes are being placed as a last priority to these schools. Many people see these young adults as scammed employees of a greedy cash-cow, while others deem them as students first and therefore do not deserve pay. As of now the NCAA does not pay student-athletes and does not intend to budge from the ideology anytime soon. 

Most people do not realize the logistics that would have to go in paying student-athletes. How much should they be paid? Should it depend on how much that sport makes in profits each year? Should those student still get scholarships as well? For those proponents of collegiate athletes, imagine they receive a $100,000 salary for their talents. Also, although this might seem a lot for a college student, please keep in mind that a majority of Division 1 collegiate athletic programs make more than $10 million in revenue. Also, if that student-athlete was to be taken high in their respective draft, they would be making much more than $100,000. The minimum rookie salary in the National Football League is $450,000. So, after taxes (federal income, state, Social Security, etc.) what would be
left is about $65,100.Now, let’s take PennState University as the school of choice for said athlete. Also, because a lot of players what to go to famous universities to showcase their skills, there is a good chance this young adult is from out of state.With PennState’s out-of-state tuition around $47,000, $18,000 is left in this athlete’s bank account. This would have to account for any other expenses such as travel, doctors, and other purchases outside the university.

However for those that believe that universities should delegate a cut of their revenues to their most prized “employees”, many people are behind you. In what economy or business do the most efficient workers not get paid a single cent for dedicating 43.3 hours to the job. This is all on top of regular classes that students like you and me struggle with daily as it is. And remember those scholarships that were mentioned earlier? Those are not as a big of a help as most initially believe. The average NCAA scholarship for athletes covers about $11,000. And coming out of high school only about 2% of players receive such money. So, the chances of getting recruited and earning scholarship money are incredibly difficult. Whether you believe in paying student-athletes or not, there is no denying that there is major money in college sports. In many cases, universities are constantly losing money, but paying their coaches and executives lucrative paychecks. For example, the Florida State non-coaching administration saw a $7.3 million dollar raise, while the school was also facing a $2 million dollar deficit. In fact, in 41 out of 50, the highest paid public employee is an athletic coach for a college.

So, when schools are looking for many perhaps they should be looking in the pockets of their own employees, because they seem be taking a large piece of the prize. Do you believe that universities are investing their money well in their athletic programs? Also, should student-athletes be paid for their talent?

The Flutie Effect

How you ever thought about how college and universities recruit teenagers to apply to their school? From nonstop mail to college fairs, teams deploy several different strategies to increase the number of applications and diversify the pool in which potential students are selected. However, there is another way in which universities both influence seniors to apply and also boost their own reputation. It is never primarily thought as a recruiting technique, but collegiate athletics are a huge calling card for student prospects. Colleges will always exploit successful athletic programs to increase how many people are interested in their schools. And the best part is that their marketing team kills two birds with one stone. Reports show that with the aid of prosperous sports team, applications will tend to rise.This is seen in how application rates surged 20% at Northwestern University after the football team won the Big Ten Championship.But what students are being lured by these big name teams?According to data, students with below average SAT scores will opt for colleges that are often synonymous with athletics. However, on the other hand, (as you would expect) students with above average standardized scores will pursue those universities who are known for academics. However, students of all test score ranges are still affected by a school’s academic success. The question this raises for me is, is it all worth it?

This response to success on the playing field is often dubbed as the “Flutie Effect”. Named after Boston College’s quarterback Doug Flutie who beat the University of Miami in 1984 with a last second “Hail Mary” in an intense game. Boston College saw their applications flowing in increase by a staggering 30% in just two years. I will be honest, this effect influenced me in my decision as college application season began. You spend four years at the same place, you have to enjoy it to some extent right? Academics are always first, but what priority should athletics be placed at? To some, unfortunately, it is placed too high. Reports show that as premier collegiate programs reach certain achievements, the respective students of those universities begin to see deteriorated work ethic. At the University of Oregon, every time the basketball team won three games in a row, male students’ GPA saw a drop of 0.02. The Duck’s accomplishments also warranted more drinking, partying, and studying less. So, again I ask, is choosing a school for their athletics really a wise decision? Once you pay your first tuition bill, you are not only inherited a great sports program, but an unseen danger that lies within it. That being the peer pressure to celebrate a team’s success, just as if you yourself were a player on the team. It is even clearly evident here at PennState. With the football team’s unforeseeable Big Ten Championship victory and historic season, everyone had a reason to celebrate. But at what cost? Many students left to watch the game, but assignments on hold to riot in the streets, and drank until they did not even remember the game. Believe me, you could have me found in the streets that night chanting with the rest of you, but this could be a potential problem. Not just because sports culture is dominating academics on campus, but because universities are picking up on this notion, and exploiting it.


Data shows that for colleges to see the same boost in applications that they receive from athletic success, they would need to decrease tuition by 3.8%. That or recruit superior professors and officials to better the academics in the school. Instead, the colleges seem to be taking Option A, by trying to bring fame to their sports programs. Students are becoming the second priority to make way for a lucrative advertising scheme. Colleges with Division 1 athletics spend, on average, about $13,628 on regular students. This is compared to the average of $91,936 spend on athletes. Academics are now being thought of as inferior to the business that is college sports. You can not blame though, as it is an incredible marketing approach. Success is never a bad thing. Application rates skyrocket, money rolls in, and everyone is happier. No one knows this better than PennState as of late. But it is becoming of increased concern that too many prospective students are too focused on what a college’s sports over, rather than their educational value. I am not trying to undermine any of what collegiate sports do (I myself am a huge fan), but academics should never take the backseat.