Nov. 14, 2006
Over the last few weeks there have been several national articles written on tax exemptions available to individuals and/or businesses that contribute to intercollegiate athletics. These articles are an outgrowth to the House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee hearings that put at issue “whether intercollegiate athletics are an integral part of higher education”?
The articles which I’ve read point to what they believe as excessiveness in coaches’ compensation, facilities, academics, travel, etc. – primarily, in the revenue producing sports, e.g. football and basketball. I admit these are areas that render some vulnerability in the debate. However, it is upon these sports that all other sports must depend for their operations, facilities, and scholarship budgets.
Nonetheless, that begs the question of “whether intercollegiate athletics is integral in higher education”? College athletics has and continues to provide tremendous opportunity for meaningful access to young people for a college education as well as further development of their special talents.
That in and of itself should be enough. However, beyond that, athletics has been a great vehicle for social change in our nation. African Americans and women have significant opportunities that historically were denied. Without athletics, where would these opportunities come from? And, how would the opportunities be financed?
In major programs, football and men’s basketball are the primary drivers of revenue for the total sports program. Sure, as with any enterprise, you can always carve out areas to make the enterprise suspect. However, the appropriate issue is the net result. That is, are revenues being generated that financially support opportunities for all men and women in the program? In the vast majority of BCS programs, that is the case.
Because of the public’s interest in these sports, athletic programs have adapted – whether it be tickets, parking, amenity seating, etc. in order to maintain and grow the public interest in order to enhance financial resources for the total sports program, not just football and men’s basketball. Individuals enjoy supporting quality competition offered by their universities. Quality competition requires that investments be made in scholarships, staff, and facilities.
I would argue that these investments make a significant impact each year on the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunities.
Yes, college athletics is integral to higher education.
In Solid Orange, Terry Don Phillips Athletic Director
August 23, 2019