The Same Forces Apply in College Sports

The coaching carousel that has enveloped the Big XII underscores a particular fact: the economic forces that shape competitive balance in the for-profit professional sports world are the same forces that shape competitive balance in the “not-for-profit” world of collegiate sports programs. Rottenberg would agree with me, I’m sure: coaches will end up where they are valued the most. Kentucky was able to lure Billy Gillespie away from Texas A&M because Kentucky is, for all intents and purposes, a “large market” team in the world of college basketball.

Jeff Bzdelik’s move from Air Force to Colorado is another move from small market to larger market. To a lesser extent, fan preferences played less of a role in the luring of Bob Huggins back to the mountains of West Virginia. Still, coaches will go where their expected economic surplus is highest.

We can certainly argue whether college officials run athletic programs collectively without an eye towards profits. Football and men’s basketball are different beasts. These programs foot the bills not only for themselves, but also for the myriad non-revenue sports, so college officials make decisions with an eye towards profits in those programs.

But it’s not always about funding the non-revenues. Athletic directors and coaches know the profit motive is the reason for the season in these sports, so to the extent that future profits can be foreseen, these expected “profits” become part of the overall compensation package of these officials. We’ll call them “salaries” so we don’t run afoul of tax law.

Tom Kirkendall has more here.

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Author: Phil Miller

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