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Friday, November 12, 2004
 
Anybody Here?
Attendance and ticket sales continue their freefall of the past few seasons. Sales were great as recently as 2001, when Iowa sold out all 16 home games. They fell off a little the next, and even more in 2003, until last year, when attendance was the lowest ever at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (opened in 1983), breaking the previous record low set in, sad to say, 2003. Not that it's a crisis - overall attendance was still 6th in the Big Ten last year, and 24th nationally.

Student ticket sales have dropped even more remarkably. For those not familiar, Iowa's Hawks Nest was a section designated for student season ticket holders who paid a premium above ticket prices to be members. From Hawkeye Central:


The Hawks Nest held as many as 2,800 students when it was first instituted a few
years ago and has lost numbers ever since. Last year 625 students were members,
down from 900 the year before. Hawks Nest members had to commit by October, one
of the problems in trying to fill up the area.

The Hawks Nest has since dropped its exclusivity, and any student buying season tickets can be a member. Yet student season ticket sales are down to 353 this year. At least I shouldn't have any trouble finding a seat at games this year.

* * * Warning: Short Rant Ahead * * *

Something that bothered me from the last article:

Trail also said the marketing department is designating certain non-conference
days in honor of Iowa players and placing ads in their hometown newspapers. For
example, it will be Jeff Horner day against Western Illinois and fans in the
Mason City area have been solicited through local media to purchase tickets to
that game.

I know most people would hardly think twice about that situation and merely accept it as part of modern college sports, but I view it as a rather blatant exploitation of the players. The school markets the likeness of each player to sell more tickets and bring in more revenue for the university, while the player receives nothing and has no say in the matter. To me, most of the players in big time college basketball and football programs deserve something far more than the scholarships they get. I don't know what they should get yet, or if there should be some kind of payment system, but I think the current system is pretty ridiculous.

Andrew Zimbalist, an economist, wrote a very interesting book a while back called Unpaid Professionals : Commercialism and Conflict in Big-time College Sports. At one point he compared the average value of the scholarships and benefits that male college football and basketball players receive to the number of hours they put into their school's program. He came to the conclusion that these athletes were/are essentially working for around minimum wage for a few years, then leaving to a system where they earned something much closer to what they deserve (professional sports), or going nowhere, since the majority of them finished their college career with nothing close to an education. What a cash cow! Schools have these laborers who earn next to nothing, yet bring in millions and millions of dollars for their athletic departments, money that can be put to use overpaying head coaches or building bigger and better facilities to attract better recruits to make even more money.

Ok, rant over.

For you local patrons of the ICPL, there's a copy of Zimbalist's book available! Check it out here.

Comments:
College athletes, more specifically basketball and football players, get more than just scholarships for participating in college sports. They get several perks under the table that you never hear about. An example can be seen from the article (http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=1919059) about former Ohio State football player Maurice Clarett. Even though the accusations are coming from Clarett, it would be foolish to believe that players don't receive similar perks.
 
Here is another article about college players receiving special treatment and perks. A cornerback from Ohio State acknowledged that there was truth to Clarett's statements.

(http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=1921740)
 
Merely pointing out that some (perhaps many) college athletes receive benefits surpassing their scholarships does not take either side of the question I was posing. I argued that these athletes deserve some portion of the profits they provide to their schools. Your statements neither bolster my argument nor take a stance opposed to it, so I'm confused as to why you want me to know that these other benefits exist.

If you think the current system is fine because certain athletes are adequately compensated through these under the table packages, I have to disagree. Payments like these put an athlete at risk of losing his college eligibility. If we assume that athletes deserve some compensation, then the benefits should be legitimate and not endanger anyone's career.
 
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