Reader questions whether a sport linked to society’s elite can endure amid legislation such as ‘College Athletes Bill of Rights’
This past weekend, the NCAA came under fire for the March Madness disparity in weight-room facilities and swag-bag contents between what the men received and what the women received. The conversation among athletes and media then extended to the general perception that women's collegiate athletics are treated differently than their male counterparts.
Whenever there is debate about collegiate athletics, that conversation eventually moves to paying athletes for the huge dollars they generate for their respective schools and the NCAA. Over the years, the NCAA has kind of stuck its head in the sand, but a couple of states, most notably California, have passed legislation to compensate athletes. But what has been lost in all newsworthy traffic is a December 2020 bill co-authored by, among others, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The biggest part of the bill, known as “The College Athletes Bill of Rights,” provides that 50 percent of a school’s revenue generated by football and basketball, less the cost of scholarships, would be paid to the athletes participating in those sports.
What this bill misses is that the income generated by football and basketball funds the non-revenue sports. What would a university do should that revenue stream be severely diminished? In 2020, Stanford University dropped 11 non-revenue men’s and women’s sports because of the revenue loss through the cancellation of March Madness.
What would this bill mean for college golf? I would guess that because of the small number of participants on a golf team, the cost per participant is pretty high compared with other non-revenue team sports. That would put men’s and women’s golf in the crosshairs of the accountants. If universities eliminate golf programs and scholarships, how would that affect professional golf? More 18- and 19-year-olds probably would try to play professionally if they couldn’t afford college or they think they’re ready for tour life. Is that good for them and good for the major professional tours? I don’t think so.
College golf also has another worry. Columbia University is offering separate graduations based on race, ethnicity and income level. Other universities apparently are holding similar graduations. How long do we think a privileged sport such as golf will survive in a college woke environment?
The PGA Tour is an extremely profitable not-for-profit. How long before the current political environment reaches into the exempt-from-income tax pool? And how long before “professional golf” is held to equal standards for the PGA Tour and the LPGA?
The next couple of years are going to be interesting.
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