I Used to Respect Michael Crow. Never Mind. The NCAA Hypocrisy Never Ends

Arizona State University (ASU) has always had a certain niche in the college world, a niche best evidenced by their making both the top 10 party school and top 10 hottest women lists in the same year.  President Michael Crow has done a fair amount to, if not reverse this image, at least add some academic cred to the university.  ASU has been creeping up the USN&WR rankings, has a very serious and respected honors college (Barrett) and hosts the Origins conference each year, one of the most fun public education events I have attended.

But Michael Crow is now upset that another Phoenix area school has been given Division I status in sports, a for-profit college named Grand Canyon University.  This could really hurt both ASU's athletic recruiting in the area as well as dilute its revenues.  But in the supremely hypocritical world college athletics, he can't say that.  Instead, he says (Via Tyler Cowen)

The conference's 12 presidents signed and delivered a letter dated July 10 urging the NCAA's Executive Committee to "engage in further, careful consideration" about allowing for-profit universities to become Division I members at the committee's August meeting. In the meantime, Pac-12 presidents decided at a league meeting last month not to schedule future contests against Grand Canyon while the issue is under consideration.

"A university using intercollegiate athletics to drive up its stock value -- that's not what we're about," Arizona State president Michael Crow said in a phone interview over the weekend. "... If someone asked me, should we play the Pepsi-Cola Company in basketball? The answer is no. We shouldn't be playing for-profit corporations."...

"Our presidents have a pretty clear view that athletics works for the broader benefit of the university," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. "There's a discomfort with the idea that the sole accountability around athletics would be to a company that might use athletics as a marketing tool to drive stock price. There's a sense that changes the dynamics and accountability around athletics."

It is freaking hilarious to get lectured on accountability around athletics by the NCAA.  This is an organization that has been making billions off unpaid workers for years, workers who think so much of the value of the compensation they do receive (a free education) that most of the best of them never complete it.  I wrote more about the NCAA and athletes here.  In short, though, all these schools use the athletic program to raise capital (in the form of donations), likely far more so than a private school's sports team would raise its stock value.  Unless you grew up near the school, what do you know about well-known schools like Penn State, Ohio State, University of Miami, LSU, Alabama and even Notre Dame other than their athletics program?

Michael Crow reveals himself as just another incumbent that does not want competition.

In regards to Grand Canyon specifically, though, it would certainly appear that Crow, who's been spearheading the effort, is driven in part by protecting his own turf. Arizona State has long been the only Division I university in the Phoenix market. And in the bigger picture, it seems a bit self-righteous that the same group of presidents that in 2011 signed a $3 billion contract with ESPN and FOX -- and which last year launched a profitable television network of their own -- would play the "non-profit" card in calling out someone else's motives.

"It's different in the following sense," Crow said of the comparison. "Whatever income we generate from a television network goes to support the swimming team, the rowing team at Cal. We support thousands of athletes and their scholarships, their room-and-board, as part of the intercollegiate spirit of athletics. ... In the case of a for-profit corporation, those profits go to the shareholders."

His last point is a distinction without a difference.  First, I am not sure it is true -- Grand Canyon also has other athletic programs that cost money but don't bring in revenue. They also have a women's swim team, for example.  But who cares anyway?  Why is a student interested in swimming more worthy of receiving football largess than an investor?  Maybe Crow is worried that the people of Arizona that fund so much of his operations (and bloated overpaid administrative staff) might suddenly start wondering why they don't get a return for their investment as do GCU shareholders.

Postscript:  Phil Knight at Oregon and Boone Pickens at Oklahoma State (to name just 2 examples) get an incredible amount of influence in the university due to the money they give to their football programs and the importance of the football programs to those schools.  Boone Pickens says he has given half a billion dollars to OSU, half of which went to the football program.  But it is clear he would not have given a dime if he had not been concerned with the football team's fortunes and the problem of his university's football team losing to other rich guy's teams.  Is this really somehow better and cleaner than being beholden to equity markets?

The link in the original article is broken, so here is a better link to an article and video of how "non-profits" are spending their athletic money, on things like this palatial locker room for the Alabama football team that would make Nero's gladiators blush.

  • Tom Lindmark

    Remember Crow is the same guy who proposed that the state give him hundreds of billions during the depths of the recession to fund a building program on the pretext it would help the economy. He got laughed out of town on that one.

  • Rick Caird

    When it comes to hypocrisy, there is nothing like academia. It runs the gamut from "we are doing it for the kids" to "we don't need no stinking' political diversity". If there is a place for hypocrisy, academia will find it.

  • Don

    What would be hilarious is if this decision led to private for-profit schools forming their own replacement for the NCAA and they realized that their best option to complete for start talent was to offer tuition-plus... Plus a paycheck, that is. If give NCAA a year before they went to Congress to have paying young athletes outlawed, which wouldn't fly with the NBA,MLB,or NHL who all recruit directly from high school.

    In sure that line of reasoning will be what ultimately defeats this move by ASU & Co.

  • MingoV

    I'm thankful I went to a school (Rochester Institute of Technology) that was Division III, had no football team, and had only a few thousand dollars in athletic scholarships. RIT's entire sports budget probably was less than the football uniform budget at Penn State.

    In contrast, I spent one semester at the University of Michigan. The constant rah! rah! rah! sports shit drove me crazy. The stadium had 105,000 seats, but the school had only 35,000 students. The extra 70,000 seats brought in big bucks. (All profit, because the stadium and its upkeep were paid for by donations.)

  • Sam L.

    Dang it, Stop picking on Phil Knight U.! That's the job of various Oregon bloggers, as Lord knows the dead tree crowd and the electron wranglers won't.

  • Sam L.

    And if they can't find a place, they will make one, and flashier than Caesar's Palace or any other Vegas casino,

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Crow is a rent-trolling scumbag trying to insert himself into taxpayer wallets at every available opportunity. This action is unsurprising, and fits his m.o. of using threat of litigation (or other leverage, usually state leverage) to
    destroy competition.

    He is by far the worst actor in the AZ State University system, and is responsible for ASU’s bubonic plague-like perpetual expansion (at public expense) over the past decade.

    He is the Government-Academic complex. Crow needs to be stopped, along with the mindless interminable expansion of bloated, massive state universities.

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    All this asshat Crow does is look for ways to screw the taxpayer, and expand his empire.

    ASU is now massive, and the academic administrative bloat is gargantuan

    http://goldwaterinstitute.org/blog/arizona-state-university-changes-subject-again

  • ErikTheRed

    Nobody will ever, ever top South Park's send-up of the NCAA:

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s15e05-crack-baby-athletic-association

  • jdgalt

    Perhaps some of the blacklisted private universities should spin-off a new for-profit sports league and allow any college to send teams (with some sort of indirect sponsorship arrangement so that Title VII doesn't apply). If this worked it would be a great way for our colleges to get to have full-spectrum athletic programs again.

  • MNHawk

    Michael Crow personally profited a cool 3/4 million dollars per year, as of 2008. I assume Michael Crow's personal profit hasn't dropped since then.

  • drB

    Actually UMich loses money on athletics, although much less than other schools.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/graphics/DataTables/2012/0515-NCAAFinance/NCAAFinance.htm

    In contrast AZ State blows >10M/year on athletics, paid for by students.

  • marque2

    That always gets me. This year the colleges are whining that they.are cutting back be cause they are increasing rates at only twice the rate of inflation (3% vs 1.75%) and yet they use these increases to build outrageous shrines to themselves and lard up on support staff to the point where there is more support than actual professors.

  • marque2

    I am not sure about the losses. Normal tuition should be counted since these athlete students are learning - alumni donations.should be considered as well.

    Yes I agree of the 119 FBC football teams a third should probably be shut down or moved to a lesser division - but I think the team does much better for the schools than these surveys let on.

  • marque2

    I don't think paying young athletes could be outlawed. Only their a mature status could.be.questioned and that is done by sport authority and not the.feds as well.

    I mean the government already winks an eye at the anticompetitive monopoly status of leagues to begin with. NCAA wouldn't want to rock that boat.

  • drB

    At least at one TX school, from what I hear, other students are paid to take exams in place of athletes (told to me by someone who witnessed this regularly). So many athletes do not study and do not learn, and are there for sole purpose of playing football. Also, they do not pay tuition and this is not counted as an expense, which it should be since normal student is paying tuition. Alumni donations to sports are counted as income, and the loss is after alumni donations, merchandise sales, ticket sales etc.

  • marque2

    I know there are scandals, and yes I know they send the kids to favorable professors and such - and some of it needs to stop.

    But the reality is that because of one Texas school grossly abusing the system doesn't mean that all schools should not use tuition as part of the athletics program.

    Learning to use one's body to the maximum of its ability is just as valid a study - if not more - than a whole host of other programs which I would instantly drop funding for, and which also rape the engineering and business schools because they operate at a loss - lets see Sociology, fine arts top the list of moochers, then come the X studies (women's, ethnic, Black, Hispanic)other unadvisable degrees - History, Geography, English, etc. And many of these have their own sneaky ways of sticking around, and grabbing even more money than they deserve ( you want to reduce X studies by 1/3 - you racist!)

    And tell me - even if taking their own tests, that a Sociology degree is worth wasting 4 years of your life - then you have some rethinking to do.

    Lets stop picking on exclusively on sports, with over the top complaints.

  • drB

    I know of one school who cheats with athlete grades, but I can bet it is many schools that operate the same way with respect to athletes.

    I do not see why engineers should pay tuition, while athletes should not. I agree that it athletics CAN be a valid part of ones' education, but then make all of them varsity athletics, pay coach the same as you pay profs (unless athletics as a whole generates money, which is true only for a few schools).

    And yes, I believe that X studies you list above are moronic and should not be offered as an academic degree. Basically, ideologic indoctrination and closeting ones mind in a predetermined box is not a degree. "Critical analysis of feminism" would be a reasonable course but in the current atmosphere any criticism would lead to prof being booted out of university even if s/he would have tenure. Sociology, etc though, is probably valid IF it is taught in a critical way with comparing more than one viewpoint, and if the amount of graduates is in one way or other matched with the jobs available to them.

  • Ted Rado

    The whole college sports thing is a joke. Very few athletes go to college for an education. A minority graduate. Most are enrolled in valueless snap courses. I am sure those in other countries laugh at us. I went to Ohio State MANY years ago. None of us thought of football players as legitimate students. We reffred to them as BDFP's. Big Dumb Football Players. I am sure it is much worse now, almost 70 years later. What a joke.

  • marque2

    Just a note. Not all students in the athletic program get scholarships. Maybe 20% - also when I went to USC it seemed like about half the engineering students had 50% scholarships PR better.

    Not sure why you think only the athletes and almost all the athletes get scholarships

  • marque2

    Very few real students go for the education. For most they go for an easy degree and four years of partying and avoiding adulthood. It isn't like it was in your day any more.

    Not sure why all the complaints about athletics when there ate so many other parasitic and even more worthless programs in the university to complain about. At least athletics generates some revenue to cover some costs
    Can't say as much for the sociology department.

  • BobSykes

    Kirk Herbstreit has discussed the true reason for not paying athletes. If the mens football and basketball athletes (who generate nearly all the revenue) were paid, every athlete on every team would have to get the exact same stipend. The B1G now has 10,000 athletes on 350 teams (30 of which generate revenue) so a $2,000 per year stipend would amount to $20,000,000 per year. Since the total B1G sports budget is $150,000,000, this is a significant increase in costs.

    This is not to say that the athletes shouldn't get stipends, they should, but the costs would probably shut down many college athletic programs. Only a few big-time programs (maybe a dozen) actually make money.

  • marque2

    A lot of programs are covering 80-90% of the costs which is Mich better than most endeavors in colleges. Only a few schools in science and engineering cover any of their costs and Athletics is the only one that covers it with student's. I don't think only a dozen schools would still play - bit with 119 football teams in FBC I would imagine maybe 1/3 of the programs- the ones that should not exist anyway would shit down

  • mlhouse

    It is false that collegiate athletes at the division I level are "unpaid workers". They receive academic scholarships and housing that are worth tens of thousands of dollars per year.