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Dr. Ken Reed, Birth Year Legacies, Canadian Civil Liberties

We talk sports with Dr. Ken Reed policy director of League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan.  Ralph pitches his idea for bettering the country by organizing people born in the same year to support civic engagement, and he also explains how Canada may be following our bad example.


  1. You guys almost got it right regarding college sports except on the idea of college football players getting paid. Dr. Reed is completely wrong on the idea, echoed by Ralph, that college football “makes money” for colleges. College football makes money for the athletics departments of colleges. The revenues from TV, sweatshirt sales, alumni booster clubs, concessions, tickets, etc. go to the athletics department – the checks are never made out to the university. Even so, football programs operate at a deficit because the number of personnel (~200) and facilities required to run a program are incredibly expensive. A football stadium, used about a half dozen times per year, costs about $2 billion to build and several million dollars a year to maintain.

    Occasionally, a football team will have a booster club fundraiser for the university and they will then make a big show of writing a check for $10,000 for some minor university improvement, even then, the university is supplementing the program from $100,000 to $ millions per year. I agree that it’s unconscionable that the highest paid employee in most state governments is a football coach, this has to stop. There are enough stories of individual football programs running huge deficits, for example Tennessee athletics runs ~$4 million deficit (, but it’s the stories of these football programs running huge surpluses that the fraudulent “creative accounting” comes into play. If a program ever runs a surplus, it _never_ goes back to the university despite previous decades of subsidies. No student has ever taken an english literature course or entered a biology lab underwritten by the school’s football team – it has never happened.

    Please take a look at this excellent piece about the myth of college sports “making money” as published by the American Council on Education ()

    Students and tuition paying parents are going into significant debt to support what is effectively a minor-league football program so that billionaire NFL team owners don’t have to pay a penny to develop the players they throw into their meat grinder of a sport. Think I’m exaggerating? If your kid goes to Rutgers, they will pay $1000/yr in student fees in direct support of the athletics department, 50% of which goes directly to football ( Not only is this ridiculously expensive, it shows how much of the athletics department budget goes to football: _all_ other sports account for only about 50% of the budget. Think about this, you could pay $500/yr to support 20+ sports and the hundreds/thousands of student athletes involved in them, or you could pay $500/yr to support, at most, 125 football players who play about 10 games per year.

    I don’t think it should be a requirement for school athletics programs to turn a profit, but stop spreading the lie that football “makes money,” i.e. “a profit” – because it simply doesn’t. Force the “non-profit” NFL to pay to establish a minor league system, where they can bear the costs of developing and paying kids who want to play football and who aren’t interested in going to college. If college football players are going to get paid to play a game that is already deficit-inducing, why not also pay the baseball players or the volleyball players, most of whom provide a greater ROI? Why should football players get (even more) preferential treatment?

  2. Here is the correct URL for that piece on the myth of college football being a cash cow

  3. Ken Reed says:


    Thanks for listening to the show and your comments.

    The idea that big-time college athletic departments, most notably in the Power Five conferences, aren’t making a ton of money is a myth. It’s only common sense that a giant enterprise like Michigan football or Kentucky basketball is making huge money. The revenues from tickets, merchandising and, most of all, media contracts are huge. Then factor in the reality that Michigan football and Kentucky basketball don’t have to pay the players creating their products — like their counterparts in the NFL and NBA do — and it’s clear that these programs are making huge “profits.” The key understanding here is that these athletic departments fall under the “non-profit” umbrella of their schools because they’re considered non-profit educational entities (haha). My column on the funny accounting practices used by college athletic departments (along with the article referenced therein) goes into more detail explaining why big-time college athletic programs are indeed making a lot of money. See:

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