How much is a sports program worth to a college or university? I spoke with Michael McCann, Director of the UNH Law Sport and Entertainment Law Institute, about why the answer is different for New Hampshire than in other parts of the country.
Why is the value of a college sports program different in New Hampshire?
It has to do with the tradition in New England of professional sports ruling the day. Fans tend to be Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins fans… that began long ago… where as in other parts of the country, there weren’t as many professional sports teams. That gave opportunities for universities to dominate the sports scene.
Does an athletic program matter here?
I think it matters… for one, purposes of admissions, having a big-time sports program tends to be a draw for some students. I think it also helps with alumni donations and relations in general. It serves value, but I think the amount of money generated by college sports in New Hampshire and New England is going to be dwarfed by schools in the southeastern conference, where you could argue they’re really pro sports teams that are in the college sports context. Coaches are making $6 million a year- we just don’t have that in New England. I think we’re more along the lines of the model of what college sports was intended to be, student first and athlete second.
Then is there more of a question about resources spent on programs in New England?
I think people are asking those questions… it’s always important to be sure resources are being spent correctly and efficiently, but I generally think it’s a wise investment to have a strong sports program provided its consistent with the academic mission of the school. It certainly helps in terms of admissions and bringing in better students who are attracted to schools where they will be able to watch college sports. So from a competitive standpoint, I think it’s important. Obviously it depends on the dollar amount in any project; Alabama Football is a different situation than a college basketball team that isn’t generating revenue, but the point is having a sports program is justified for most schools.
You can listen to the radio version of my conversation with Michael McCann right here: