Super Bowl

Are You Ready for Some (Tax-Subsidized) Football on Championship Saturday?


Today is a huge day for college football as various conference-championship games will decide just who gets to play for a national title in January.

My latest column for is about all the rotten subsidies that the college and professional game squeezes out of taxpayers who don't give a rat's ass about the gridiron. Stadium deals in which even craptacular teams (Vikings!) get sweetheart arrangements are well-known. The extent of direct and indirect subsidies to Division I college teams—even powerhouses—is less well-publicized. Here's a snippet:

With the exception of a tiny handful of programs – Ohio State, University of Texas, LSU, and perhaps three or four more – virtually every athletic program at every public NCAA Division I school is subsidized even as administrators plead poverty when it comes to resources for faculty and, as you know, education. Especially in an age of busted government budgets, even the most rabid sports fan should agree that it's an outrage that the highest-paid public employee in a majority of states is a college football coach (in another 13, it's a basketball coach).  It's far better to be broke and have a cellar-dwelling NFL franchise, right?

If you watch football this weekend, recognize that most of the drama and meaning is taking place off the field. The way the college and pro games are built on subsidies and giveaways neatly encapsulates crony capitalism at its worst – and helps to explain why taxes go up even as it seems there's never enough money for basic government functions.

Read the whole thing here.

And for god's sake, Buckeyes, beat the Spartans in the Big 10 championship game if only because the latter gets a $3.6 million subsidy from its university.

What say you, Reason readers (and hopefully, Reason supporters—please give to our webathon!): Should government at any level or in any way be subsidizing sports that rake in millions of dollars?

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  1. Subsidy or not, I want the Buckeyes to lose. Number two ranking and not even a strength of schedule in the top 50? Should be renamed Ohio State Chickenshits.

    1. They play who’s in front of them. They’re also mandated to play an Ohio school once a year. The out-of-conference schedules are made years in advance. Strength of schedule is mostly a self-reinforcing calculation, as well.

      1. Why would you schedule Florida A&M and Buffalo “years in advance” if you see yourself as an upper echelon team? It’s because the BCS system rewards wins and loses and not strength of schedule. Ohio State is 20-22 in bowl games proving when they play somebody decent, they lose.

        1. What’s amazing is that you think any other big team does differently (or you seem to imply that).

          Buffalo is in the MAC, along with the rest of the DI Ohio schools with football programs.

          FAMU probably approached Ohio State, but let’s examine some other OOC schedules:

          Michigan St: Western Michigan, South Florida, Youngstown St., Notre Dame
          Florida St: Pitt, Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, Idaho
          Alabama: Va Tech, Colorado St., Georgia St., Chattanooga
          Baylor: Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe
          Florida: Toledo, Miami, Georgia Southern, FSU

          That’s some of them. Just about all of them have 2 patsies scheduled.

          1. Strange, how incentives work, is it not?

          2. Stanford, UCLA, USC: zero FCS schools.

          3. Where in my comment did I say that Ohio St is the only team to schedule patsies? Florida St has a weak schedule too (#40). Neither should be playing for a National Championship over Auburn (#3) or Alabama (#4). I just think Ohio St has abused this system the most which is reflected in their awful bowl record.

            1. Ohio State didn’t do this shit until two things happened: 1. the SEC became everyone’s darling conference and 2. the Ohio legislature mandated playing an Ohio school.

              Both of these happened around the same time. The SEC became everyone’s darling conference largely based on playing shit teams like Chattanooga and Georgia State all the time in their non-con schedule.

            2. Auburn: Washington St, Arkansas St, W. Carolina, Florida Atlantic.

              1. I’d take Wazzu over most of the Big 10. And please, pour me a full pint of salty sweet tOSU tears.

                1. Michigan State was better tonight. Congratulations to them.

                  They sure as hell were better disciplined. That says a lot.

  2. Without those football programs, we wouldn’t even know what an oblate spheroid is!

    1. Seriously, a football is a much better example of an oblate spheroid compared to Earth. I mean, who gives a shit about astronomy or geology when the game is on?!


  3. O H I O

    Fuck everything that’s not Ohio.

    1. +the whole state of M*ch*g*n.

    2. You misspelled that, it is O I H O!


      1. The 56th state!

      2. I did not know that was a real thing. I had to look it up.…..a-oiho.jpg

    3. Fuck the B1G. First they don’t know how to count, then they name themselves like some sort of ridiculous naval nuclear plant. At least Pac-12 changed their name when they expanded.

    4. You’d fuck anything anyway. Go Spartans (just to piss off Warty and Sloopy).

      1. Don’t hold those two against the rest of us upstanding tOSU grads.

        1. I know tOSU grads – there is no such thing as upstanding.

          1. I respectfully disagree.



            1. I didn’t say I didn’t like them – just that they aren’t upstanding.

              1. I didn’t say you didn’t like them. I just called you an ass.



                1. You’re hitting on me, aren’t you?

                  1. What was your first clue, Hon?

      2. Just remembered I had an uncle that was an MSU grad. I’ll raise a glass in his memory this New Years Day before Stanford kicks some Spartan ass.

        1. Eh I don’t know. MSU has a seriously hardnosed defense. That will be my kind of Rose Bowl.

  4. Should government at any level or in any way be subsidizing sports that rake in millions of dollars?

    This is a question?

  5. “…virtually every athletic program at every public NCAA Division I school is subsidized…”

    Universities should not have any athletic programs at all? The linked chart shows revenues, expenses and subsidies for athletic departments as a whole, not football. Is there any surprise that the more obscure sports and minor conference schools don’t self-support?

    Please for OSU to lose, so we don’t have to hear any more complaining,…and to make room for Auburn in the BCS Championship.

    1. Better yet would be if the Criminals lost but that is about a 200-1 chance.

    2. Universities should not have any athletic programs at all?

      No, they shouldn’t, at least if they’re public.

      1. I don’t see anything wrong with club teams, but they should certainly not have teams that are paid for out of the lesser students’ tuition.

      2. I believe some of the things that are being counted under athletic programs are expenses for the upkeep of facilities that are used for club teams and intramurals.

      3. There should not be publicly funded universities anyway. And if that happened, all practical, non-bullshit majors would eventually end up more like an apprenticeship co-op trade school kind of deal, with a lot less room for non-club sports.

    3. I’ve often wondered how much it would cost to get an Ivy League quality education if you limited it to a quality education. No dorms, no gyms, no sports, no electives, no manicured lawns…

      Just the education.

      Often wondered if there’d be a market for it. I’m guessing, based upon what college costs these days, there would.

      1. Depends on what you mean by “quality”. My older brother went to Yale and he’s a moron.

        1. Well, our president went to Columbia and Harvard… and he supposedly taught at Harvard. So there you go.

          Also, the Bush II went to Yale. So, yeah.

      2. “Often wondered if there’d be a market for it. I’m guessing, based upon what college costs these days, there would.”

        One of the imponderables is the ‘installed base’; the rep you have by carrying a degree from ‘everybody likes’ university and the resulting guanxi. It seems a degree from ‘I’m serious’ university would need marketing to make it equally valuable.
        Example: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a hell of an engineering school but will it get you a job as easily as Stanford?

        1. From my dad’s experience in the engineering world from before he left, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of institution-worship. What matters is if you can prove that you Know Your Shit.

          1. I work at a large Chemical company. To be hired as a research chemist you must have graduated from one of a specific list of 30 universities. If you got a PhD from a different school and want to work here, too bad; go do a post-doc at one of the 30 on the list and then you will be considred.

        2. The uni you went to doesn’t get you a job. The best it can do is get you an interview.

        3. A big advantage of being at a high-reputation uni is that employers visit for info sessions and career fairs, etc, so you have a greater opportunity to get face time with lots of potential employers. That’s simply a logistical reality — they aren’t going to expend the resources to visit 1000 different schools.

      3. It would be priceless. The perceived quality Ivy League education is based on the prestige of the Ivy League schools. An new university cannot simply buy that, it has to be earned. Also, a lot of benefits of an Ivy League education comes from the networking opportunities afforded by extracurriculars, so what you envision could never be considered equivalent to an Ivy, even if the program was academically superior

        1. Point taken.

          When I said Ivy League quality, I was referring to the actual book learning, not the ancillary benefits.

      4. Yes, they’re called community colleges.

      5. FWIW, the cheap, public college I went to as an undergrad had an attrition rate of over 80% in the sciences. All the profs came from top schools and demanded the same of their students that had been demanded of them.

        The acceptance rate of our bio/chem/physics grads into Johns Hopkins med school was higher than that of Johns Hopkins undergrads. I got into every grad school I applied to (Harvard, Brown, UNC, UMich, UU…) with a full boat scholarship.

        So the answer is, “Damn cheap.”

  6. It’s cold. I’m going out to get a couple bowls of pho, and then I am going to watch some subsidized football.

    1. Sounds like a plan, all the way down to the pho.

    2. Pho sounds outstanding right now. If I wasn’t already making a giant pot of beef and sweet potato stew, I think I would follow suit.

    3. …..Pho….

      Dammit! Now I am salivating.

    4. I wanted Pho last night, but my dinner companion had had Tom Yum for lunch and was disinclined. We ended up at Chalet Edelweiss. The Deer Jagerschnitzel is delicious.

      1. I drive by there all the time, but was unaware of that place until now. Good beer? (I’m enjoying a barely chilled Chimay with my Pho right now…)

        1. We just drank the Bitburger and they also had Erdinger and a few others. Not as fancy as Simzy’s.

          1. I did a dad’s night out at Simzy’s last year. Don’t see what all the fuss is about.

            1. Not my choice BTW. I would have gone to Shellback or Gringo’s.

  7. Subsidies, just like taxation is theft. If an individual wouldn’t want another using threats or eventually acts of violence against them or their families, then how can anyone advocate a politician engage in theft?

    The only reason individuals advocate theft (and give it fancy new names) is because they nor the politician face any consequences for their actions. Folks use the excuse “I believe some taxation is necessary”. For those that say such nonsense, then don’t call the police when a robber steals some of your things. For they are going to benefit their families and neighbors by giving rides to everyone in their neighborhood with the car they stole from you.

    It’s so simple, yet many individuals refuse to “get it” because they are shielded from consequences when they advocate their own form (derived from whatever political ideology) of thievery.

    Go collaborate with your friend to rob your neighbors home, which is a well protected home through firearms and the family guard dogs. Oh no! You might say. We might get shot, or eaten by the dogs.

    When you have a politician who has the police, and standing armies which they can use against you, they don’t even have to break in your home. They know, such an individual knows that they will eventually die if they do not obey. First letters, and then confiscation of property, jail or death.

  8. At least now I have a reason to cheer for one of those teams.

  9. This is SEC championship game is a true barnburner at 45-34 with seconds left in Q3.

    Ohio State would be about 4-4 in the SEC and sitting out tonight.

    Criminals vs War Eagles – the only real game we can get in Jan.

    1. Actually, most “top” SEC teams would be 4-4 in the B1G. And I’d love to see Alabama or LSU play a game in snow one day. I’m certain they would have their rear ends handed to them. They can only play in warm weather and their schedules are ridiculously easy on top of that.

      SEC has had some good years recently, but this year they are WAY overrated and ranked based on reputation alone.

      1. Oh how droll, someone that thinks Minnesota has fielded a real football team this year.

        1. Seriously. Look the SEC has not always been the best, and it will not be the best forever. But this ain’t the year that changes.

  10. Legalize heroin! People have a “right” to do heroin. It’s none of your damn business! Open the border! People have a “right” to pay scab laborers crap wages. It’s none of your damn business!

    Oh, and about that, it seems poor people who make scab wages and need to support a heroin addiction need your money to do it. I mean it would be nice if everybody could mind their own business, but this is the real world we’re talking about, what are you, some kind of anarchist?

    /why I’m not donating

    1. 2/10

    2. ^? (not you, Thane)

    3. You seriously copied and pasted this on two articles? I expect a better class of troll.

      Give us some new material, man.

  11. OT:

    Advertising Epic Fails

    I like the one that has Santa Clause smoking a cigarette.

    1. “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere!”

    2. “IT’S TOASTED!”

      Thank you, Mad Men.

  12. The Nation wants to Chile to destroy itself

    Children should not be held responsible for the cowardice of their parents?or for their crimes. But it is worth noting that Ms. Matthei, while Pinochet’s thugs were interrogating and kicking the hell out of her childhood pal, was studying economics at the Catholic University of Chile, where reigned the “Chicago boys,” fanatic followers of Milton Friedman’s free-market theories. Their neoliberal policies and embrace of unbridled capitalism and repression of workers’ rights became the dominant ideology of the dictatorship, a series of pitiless measures that Evelyn Matthei, once democracy was restored in 1990, would continue defending as a legislator?policies she wishes to continue as president.

    And those free-market policies have turned Chile into South America’s most prosperous and stable nation. Why should they be rejected because of their association with Pinochet?

    Do progressives disavow socialist policies even when they are embraced by populist tyrants and dictators like Chavez and Mugabe?

    1. The Natio generally wants humanity to destroy by embracing their policies. Chile is just a lasting wrong done against their worldview that they hunger to correct.

    2. Yeah, at no point do they explain why the policy is bad simply because Pinochet enacted it.

      Hitler advocated strong state involvement in industry. I don’t see the Nation arguing that this invalidates left-wing economics.

      They also never bother comparing Chile’s economic progress against bastions of liberal sentiment like Brazil or Venezuela. It’s almost like doing so would show left-wing economics to be a total sham.

      1. Well Irash, you make the common mistake of assuming that conservative Hitler was “liberal”. That is just fucking stupid.

        Hitler banned unions and put the nation-religion-Aryan state first like all conservatives do. He was all about PRESERVING THE PAST FOR RACIAL PURITY! – just like the GOP today.

            1. It’s the only response it deserves. Anything is just practice for arguing with an idiot.

        1. you make the common mistake of assuming that conservative Hitler was “liberal”

          Fucking idiot!

          1. Why do you defend conservatives? I thought (for real) that you were libertarian.

            1. Would it help if one replaced “Hitler” with “Stalin” or “Mao”?

            2. I am a libertarian. Hitler was a statist who leaned slightly more right than the Soviets (who were also statists).

              Look at the chart, dumbass.

              1. I am a libertarian. Hitler was a statist who leaned slightly more right than the Soviets (who were also statists).

                Dude, that is exactly what I say.

                Me: “Fascism is a right wing disease and Marxism is a left wing disease. Either will kill you.”

              2. Francisco d Anconia|12.7.13 @ 9:42PM|#
                …”Hitler was a statist who leaned slightly more right than the Soviets”…

                The difference was simply this: Hitler started (and lost) a war before he followed the (clearly stated) goal of nationalizing the entire economy, as did Lenin. I can find not difference between them other than that.
                If you are to define Lenin as “left”, you have no choice to define Hitler as otherwise.

                1. Damn, Sevo, you stupid twat. Hitler nationalized the German economy in order to achieve racial purity much like the Right-wing Aryan Nation here in the USA.

                  I am done addressing you directly. You don’t have the sense to piss in a toilet.

                  1. Palin’s Buttplug|12.7.13 @ 10:00PM|#
                    “Damn, Sevo, you stupid twat. Hitler nationalized the German economy in order to achieve racial purity much like the Right-wing Aryan Nation here in the USA.”

                    You imbecile, it doesn’t matter why you, in your stupidity, imagine someone does something.

                  2. Oh, and:

                    Palin’s Buttplug|12.7.13 @ 10:00PM|#
                    “Hitler nationalized the German economy in order to achieve racial purity”

                    Yes, and Lenin did so “for the people” and idjits like you think that means something.

                2. The point is, it doesn’t matter. Both are at the bottom of the Nolan chart, which means they are the opposite of libertarian. Slightly left, slightly right who cares? They are both authoritarian.

            3. I’ll presume you’d never look at evidence which shows you to be the ignorant asshole you are, so from “The Wages of Destruction”, pg 106:
              “As we have already seen, the New Plan, which effectively regulated the access of each and every German firm to foreign raw materials, created a substantial new bureaucracy, which controlled the vital functions of a large slice of German industry.”
              Please tell us how that is other than leftist, you imbecile.

        2. Palin’s Buttplug|12.7.13 @ 9:10PM|#
          “Well Irash, you make the common mistake of assuming that conservative Hitler was “liberal”. That is just fucking stupid.”

          Presuming you can read, I refer you to “The Wages of Destruction” (Adam Tooze) where in he relates exactly how the National Socialist were “socialist” in the extreme, you stupid shit.

    3. Fergawdsakes man, it is The Nation – do you expect them to disavow Che at this point, when he is truly profitable?

  13. Well this is not going well. FIRE URBAN MEYER

    1. I’m wondering if the last game just turned everyone completely retarded. How do you full out tackle the punt returner a full 1.5 seconds before the ball arrives? Just what the fuck got into Shazier?


      1. I hope Banjos and the kids are OK.

        1. The kids are dressed in Buckeye gear today. I don’t want to post a picture without Sloopy’s permission, but it’s basically child abuse.

    2. Stepped out for a few and just got back. Was not expecting that…

    3. Finally got something, and it took Miller to make something of a broken play for a huge gain. Philly Brown’s catch for the TD was excellent, too.

      Sucks that they’re giving us hope now. I really hate that.

    4. That was better. Now fucking stop those assholes without penalties.

    5. Oooh, turnover!

      1. Wasted it.

  14. Should they? Hell no. Are you kidding me? You get what you earn. Nothing more.

  15. Why is Eddie George taking notes on a legal pad?

    1. Interesting. When he went back to school, it was in the School of Architecture. Architects don’t usually use legal pads.

  16. Sounds like some serious business to me dude.

    1. You can be a real bitch, sometimes.

      1. Yeah, but he isn’t cheering for OSU – so he’s got that going for him.

  17. even the most rabid sports fan should agree that it’s an outrage that the highest-paid public employee in a majority of states is a college football coach (in another 13, it’s a basketball coach).

    Not really; they’re among the vanishingly few public employees that it’s easy to fire.

  18. Generally speaking there aren’t many things I’d sell my soul to Satan for, but Emma Watson…

    1. Under most circumstances (i.e. when I am not drunk) I would excoriate your lust for this young thing.

      Tonight you get a pass.

      1. I don’t know how old you are, but Emma Watson is actually 18 months older than me.

        So my lust is very much socially acceptable thank you very much.

        1. Damn kids!

          Get off of my lawn!

          I was 17 when Drew Barrymore was in ET. Hard to get past that…

          …but I manage.

          Miss Watson, would be born 8 years later.

        2. So you’re lusting after an older woman? Yuck.

        3. So, you inherited all of that title eh? And fuck you for making me feel so old when I’m drunk.

    2. And where were you when Irish was speaking ill of the Brits?

  19. Next Saturday’s anniversary observance should be fun, too.

  20. Looks like some state college from Ohio forgot to win their last game. Oops.

    1. Ah they’ll still enjoy their trip to Tampa instead of Pasadena.

      1. As well they might; twelve wins is nothing to sneeze at.

      2. Either way, more fans will show up than the “home” team (assuming it’s a southern team – it may not be).

        1. Clemson always brings a ton of fans.

          Your main claim may be wrong (it will be close).

        2. Is the OSU coach gonna punch a Tigger like the last time they played?

  21. There’s only one way to improve college football. And like most things, you’d have to go to Texas and take away the University Interscholastic League’s model for how to run a playoff. The way that the UIL divides teams into 32 districts in order to order them into a playoff could be done with 16 teams in the FBS.

    1st: Geographically align all schools into 16 conferences as equally as possible. An example: Conference 1: Cal, Stanford, SDSU, Fresno St, San Jose St, USC, and UCLA.

    2nd. Only count conference standings in order to determine who makes the playoffs. 7 team conferences would have 6 conference and 6 non conference games. Playing tougher opponents would be encouraged. In order to make the Playoffs your team would have to win the conference or be the runner up.

    3rd. No more conference championships (there would be no 12 team conferences anymore) Either the 1st place, top 2, or top 2 +1 for the larger than 7 team conferences. The playoffs would be seeded by a ranking system the conference champions would be ranked 1-16; the runners up 17-32; and the 3rd place teams 32-40. The higher ranked team would be allowed to host the game. The National championship could be treated like the Superbowl and be predetermined years in advance.

    1. That system led to my high school winning the state in 4A football 44-0 one year.

      1. That’s why you seed the playoffs. Texas has that problem, but as of late the 5A championships have been good. By seeding your forcing #1-4 to prove themselves against lesser teams.

  22. O-H-I-O…go Bobcats!

    Did I get it right?

  23. It’s sorta cute how much interest you guys have in Little League football. The Libertarian Wife and I spent the day watching the grownups play. Great games in Baltimore and San Francisco.

  24. Folks, `splain to me again why any libertarian cares which gubmint school’s team wins any game?

    Perhaps because I attended parochial elem & high school, and a private college, which, while a traditional basketball power, had to give up varsity football in 1960 because it was too damned expensive, I have a different viewpoint. I never attended Enormous State U, and am astounded how dedicated to its athletic fortunes some of my neighbors are, not only the ones who never went to ESU, but the ones who went to University of State @ City, Anywhere Community College or to no post-secondary school at all.

    As for the Big Leaguers: the NFL owners are among the biggest corporate welfare queens.

    I still waste my time watching my favorite pro teams, though. When it comes to sports, we are not merely rational actors.

    Kevin R

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