South Carolina president Harris Pastides took the stand Wednesday at the O'Bannon trial. His scare tactic of choice? The possible cancellation of non-revenue sports.
This is a common argument from the NCAA, which claims that if athletes in the major conferences are given a cut of television revenue, schools won't have enough money to continue to fund non-revenue sports. We already detailed how that argument makes absolutely no economic sense given current spending habits, but let's take a deeper look.
Pastides makes this assumption based off a scenario in which O'Bannon wins and athletes then get 50 percent of television revenue. Most people predict athletes would get less than 10 percent, but even a 50 percent television revenue hit would not kill the big schools' budgets.
From Pastides' testimony:
NCAA atty brings up Noll suggestion that athletes get 50 % of broadcast (that $19.7 mil number). Asks Pastides if there would be shortfall.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) June 18, 2014
If FB and MBB players were to get 50 percent share of TV revenue for use of name, image that would leave $9.5 my shortfall— Steve Berkowitz (@ByBerkowitz) June 18, 2014
Pastides said only way to raise $ would be get more from state (doubtful), raise from donors, raise tuition or cut sports programs— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 18, 2014
If television revenue was staying flat, accounting for athlete pay in the budget would be an issue for athletic departments. However, the SEC's revenue is about to rise exponentially.
Starting this year, each SEC school is projected to bring in $34 million in television revenue, thanks to the launch of the SEC Network and the College Football Playoff. These deals tend to be backloaded, and the SEC's revenue growth shows no sign of slowing. But in the very worst case scenario, schools like South Carolina are going to be bringing in close to what they are now (and the SEC's fellow conferences will do just fine, as well).
What about smaller conferences? This will likely be done on a conference level, and since smaller conferences bring in less television revenue, they'll be giving less of it out. Proportionately, they won't be affected more than the big conferences — in fact, some might be less affected, because their budgets are presumably less heavily focused on television revenue than schools in larger conferences, which are televised more.
Here's a look at how South Carolina would actually be affected by two different O'Bannon outcomes, both of which give a bigger cut to athletes than is likely.
|Current revenue||If athletes get 50% in the future||If athletes get 10% in the future|
|$19.7 million||$17 million||$30.6 million|
In the more likely scenario, South Carolina is going to be bringing in roughly $11 million more in 2014-15 than it did in 2012-13 (the year discussed at trial). In the extraordinarily unlikely scenario that athletes get 50 percent of the television revenue, South Carolina would only have a $2.7 million budget shortfall.
And luckily, Pastides' head football coach Steve Spurrier offered a while back to give up some of his salary for the cause.
Spurrier opened his quip-filled media days address Tuesday by saying the 28 football and men's basketball coaches were in favor of paying players about $300 a game in football and perhaps a little less in hoops. Spurrier, who has made the pitch before, also said the coaches each indicated at spring meetings they were willing to pony up the $280,000 or so he estimated it would cost.
He said that "little bit" - $3,600 or so a year per player, he figures - would give players some pocket money and help their parents attend games.
But let's focus on the 10 percent scenario, because it's a far more relevant. It's pretty clear that South Carolina's athletic department will be able to function — and keep all of its sports — with $31 million in television revenue per year if it's able to thrive with $20 million per year.
Some have suggested that facilities spending will need to be cut, but most of those are donor-funded anyway. More likely is that, in order to make up for only having $11 million extra to spend instead of $14 million extra to spend, things like skyrocketing coach pay will be cut.
Now O'Bannon attorneys showing chart of Spurrier's salary, from $2 million in '06 to $5.5M in '14— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) June 18, 2014
Pastides also worried that an O'Bannon win "would render athletes who don't receive these rewards as second-class citizens. It would make them feel worse about themselves." However, individual conferences could decide how television money was divided up, and the SEC could decide that some of it would also go to non-revenue sport athletes — if, of course, Pastides and his fellow presidents are as worried about the students as they lead on.
But Pastides isn't worried about that. He's worried about making sure he keeps $3 million a year out of athletes' hands so he can use it for extravagant meetings and other discretionary spending. So he decided to use non-revenue sports as a scapegoat to scare you into allowing him to do that.
Because nothing says you care about student-athletes like using scare tactics to keep money from them.