Writing in today’s New York Times, Gilbert Gaul points out another extremely sketchy aspect of big-time college athletics: the money it generates is untaxed. He notes:
Decades ago — before the lucrative television contracts, Internet marketing, Nike sponsorships and luxury boxes — Congress essentially exempted colleges from paying taxes on their sports income. The legislators’ reasoning now appears shockingly quaint: that participation in college sports builds character and is an important component of the larger college experience.
Many booster clubs are recognized as charities under the federal tax code. At Florida and Georgia, to name just two universities, the athletic departments are set up as charities. Universities also have access to tax-exempt financing when building ever-larger stadiums and arenas. Boosters and donors benefit from generous tax deductions when they buy the best seats or endow an athletic scholarship. That’s right: colleges now endow their quarterbacks and linebackers the same way they do a distinguished chair of American literature.
So these programs aren’t just sucking up resources at their universities; they are aggravating the country’s deficit.
Maybe we could get the congresspeople from non-BCS states to band together to end this nonsense. The Montana-Massachusetts coalition: I like the way that sounds.