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Tuesday, November 21, 2006
McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan for College Sports? The NCAA's Hard and Soft Money

Last week, NCAA President Myles Brand wrote a 25-page letter to the House Ways and Means Committee arguing that the NCAA deserves its tax-exempt status. According to Brand, the NCAA is foremost about education. We've examined the validity of this claim on numerous occasions.

Will Li e-mails some great commentary about Brand's letter. Will suggests that we might want to re-conceptualize how we look at NCAA funding through "hard money" and "soft money" lenses:
I wonder how Brand justifies things like 7 figure salaries (Charlie Weis) and/or exorbitant stadium expenditures (Texas/ HDTV Screen)? The article says he does (by saying that coaches are paid commensurate to other highly recruited faculty? Is that true?).

It seems to me that the conflict isn't between federal funding and TV rights, though.

The real problem is that, to use an analogy, there's so much soft money in the system. In that analogy, if college sports and the NCAA are a party or a candidate, the hard money is the money they collect from sponsors and ads and television rights, the amounts of which should theoretically be publicly available. But (correct me if I'm wrong), we have no way of knowing how much boosters are spending on donations, incentives, athlete recruitment and other in-kind contributions to the schools.

I think what the NCAA needs is an equivalent to McCain-Feingold.
While NCAA rules obviously limit boosters (see e.g., Sacrificial Gyro? Pete Carroll's Big Fat Greek Recruiting Methods), do we know how much they actually provide? And to whom? And when? Are boosters a less-detectable way for schools to get what they want, much like, until McCain-Feingold and Shays-Meehan, financial contributions to political parties had been a less-detectable way for politicians to get what they want?


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