The NCAA has yet another issue at their table this week. The University of Miami sports program broke the rules. This is a very high-profile school that brings in a ton of money to their school and conference every year. (Tough spot for the NCAA)
Here is what the NCAA will do:
They’ll punish the “U”: take away some wins, maybe some money, and put them on probation.
Here is why any punishment the NCAA chooses won’t work:
So if you’ve read this blog before you’ve probably picked up on me liking to see things from an economic perspective. Which in most cases is simply a matter of following the incentives. The NCAA has a major issue, no punishment will be incentive enough for a big program not to cheat. Lets break this down.
Incentive not to cheat: NCAA might retroactively take away achievements (not money), and you might have to sit out of the money for a year (impact could last 3 years but still not a long time)
Incentive to cheat: Okay stay with me on this-
1. The school makes a lot of money from Athletics (Football specifically)- Both Athletic and Academic donations are made at football games, bigger donations are made at Bowl games. (So right off the bat, the whole university has an incentive to win.)
2. Winning- Having an amazing coaching staff is nice, and a genius coach is good too… but in College Football the team with the best players is the one that wins. (Just ask Charlie Weis and the Notre Dame)
3. There is a limited number of elite players- So a football team has 22 starting players, yet each year there are only really 100 or so players who are supremely gifted. (The Players have differentiated themselves on the field, how does a college differentiate itself?)
4. If one school is doing it, we need to do it- Remember that the school has a huge incentive to win so they can get money. (From TV or from donations) Well once one school begins to get more than its fair share of the 100 supreme players, the others have to keep up. (No different than how Airlines or Hotels keep one-uping each other to get you to stay with them.) Sometimes your facilities, fan base, and tradition don’t differentiate your school… But a car or a girl might.
5. Once you’ve established athletics as a major source of money, you’ve been getting this money for decades. (A short suspension isn’t going to do anything) Your school has lined its pockets for years, they have money put away for a rainy year or two. (No different than an other major corporation.)
So how do we fix this?
Athletics is a business, treat it like one.
1. The NCAA needs to TAX the revenue as it comes in, not punish after the fact. The Tax should pay for better enforcement. As enforcement improves and schools get caught, the punishment shouldn’t have anything to do with the football programs. If you get caught your % of revenue that goes to the NCAA tax increases, meaning if you want to differentiate yourself with better gifts for players… go for it. Just know that as you do that, the amount of money you make will be about the same because you tax will progressively increase. (I personally don’t care what the money ends up going to, maybe academic scholarships, poorer athletic programs, or maybe the NCAA might pay its labor force some actual money. (but that’s a different story for another day))
2. There really isn’t a #2 here… I could go down the route of paying the players what they are worth but honestly we all know that is an issue. (More so for the labor issues than schools cheating.)
So in case you missed it here is the deal. Take the incentive of direct athletic money off the table. (Tax all athletics donations, sponsors, and other income and level out the field a bit.) Cheating is just a sign that the system is broken, not that schools are bad.
Thanks for listening,