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Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Sports Fans Should Vote...


I'm so tired of hearing Bob Menendez and Tom Kean Jr. throw mud at each other, I'm thinking of moving to New Jersey just so I can vote against both of them. But today, Lester Munson of SI.com has given me a new reason to care about tomorrow's election.

Long story short, the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives has been making noise about a possible review of how big-time college athletic programs benefit from the tax-exempt status given to educational institutions. Outgoing committee chairman Bill Thomas (R-California) has written a letter, in which he asks,

"How does playing major college football or men's basketball in a highly commercialized profit-seeking entertainment environment further the educational purpose of your member institutions?"

Another interesting question:

Do big-time college hoops and football offer any educational benefit greater than "that which is received by participation in other Division (II and III) or intramural athletics."

(Speaking from experience, I can say that intramural basketball players attract a lot less "benefit" from groupies than the guys who play in the big gym... but I suspect that's not what he meant. And no, I'm not bitter.)

Some other factors covered in the Thomas letter:
  • Why should federal taxpayers subsidize charter travel, athletic facilities, and huge coaching salaries?
  • Do the current academic minimums really ensure that student athletes can succeed academically at the collegiate level?
  • Payouts from events like the NCAA Tournament are handed out based on wins and losses -- wouldn't it make more sense academically if the tournament money was handed out equally to all?
And this doozie:
  • Aside from the fact that the athletes aren't paid... how exactly do you differentiate D-1 college sports from the pros?
The NCAA has until November 14 to respond. (Read the full text of the Thomas letter here.)

So here's where the whole "voting" thing factors in. Thomas opted not to run for re-election, so there will be a new chairman of Ways and Means come this January. If the Democrats take over a majority in the house, Charlie Rangel of New York is expected to take over the position. If the GOP hangs on to its majority, any one of several representatives might step in. It isn't clear whether or not this inquiry will be a priority for the new chair, but Rangel at least is reportedly in agreement with the letter.

So make sure to cast a vote on Tuesday. You could play a part in deciding the future of college sports. (Oh, and the free world and all that.)

4 comments:

danquon said...

Ok, Charlie, I posted here in order to keep a promise to a friend and not beat upon his writers -:). Explain to me why you think taxing the college system is a good thing? I get you don't like the fact that college athletes are generating revenue and not being paid (except for a small stipend and an education that may be worth in excess of 30k a year). But how can not building the state of the art facilities be good for the athlete or the local economies that rely on said construction and other revenues based on the teams, remembering not every college is geographically located like UCLA. Given who you are and your interests, I don't get your stance on this one.

Charlie said...

Let's be clear -- I'd be shocked if this ever gets to the point of universities getting taxed. I'd like to see the threat of taxation shine a little light on some of the seedier aspects of the college game, and that seems to me to be the most likely outcome here.

As for tax dollars going to fund improvements at schools, etc., I'm all for it. I have a harder time supporting tax dollars to build a new training facility that would only be used by, say, the Ohio State football team, when they could be used for something that might benefit the entire student body or surrounding community. (Not picking on the Buckeyes in particular... just using them as an example of a big-time college sports program.)

The Ohio State football team, the Duke basketball team, and lots of other examples make plenty of money. They don't need the additional advantage of getting all that cash tax-free. Would it be SO bad if the schools at the top had to share a little more of the pie?

(Full disclosure: Yes, I am a big supporter of college hoops. But I didn't attend a big state school, and I've never been a fan of one. I've never been a big college football guy.)

noixe said...

seeing as how we have a three trillion dollar debt, we should be taxing everyone and everything possible. how much could *gasp* paying taxes actually hurt college athletics?

Charlie said...

Probably about as much as it hurts the Yankees.

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