According to a wire service report ran in today's Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Commitee has asked the NCAA to justify its tax-exempt status.
"From the standpoint of a federal taxpayer, why should the federal government subsidize the athletic activities of educational institutions when that subsidy is being used to help pay for escalating coaches' salaries, costly chartered travel and state-of-the art athletic facilities?" asked Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., in a letter sent to NCAA President Myles Brand.
The NCAA states in the returns filed with the IRS that its corporate purpose is "to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body."
At this point, I feel compelled to remind the reader that the above was filed under penalty of perjury. In any event, this claptrap in the filings led Rep. Thomas to ask said "Damn Good Question."
" How does playing major college football or men's basketball in a highly commercialized, profit- seeking, entertainment environment further the educational missions of your member institutions?"
I am shocked. Why, next thing you know he'll be insinuating that some churches are abusing their tax exempt status to engage in partisan politics.
In any event, you may expect the usual litany of canards in response: "Intercollegiate athletics raises the profile of the schools, increases alumni donation activity and promotes the spirit of clean competition and traditions." The fact of the matter is that big-time athletics have virtually nothing to do with the academic missions of the schools of which they are ostensibly a constituent part and it has been demonstrated that a successful athletic program does not necessarily result in increased revenue for the academic side. Indeed, for many schools, participation in Division I football while attempting to at least fake compliance with Title VIV's requirement that women be given an equal opportunity to compete in intercollegiate athletics is ruinously expensive.
But it is a hell of a deal for the top 35 or 40 schools that can manage it. They don't have to pay the players, at least not over the table. The coach's salaries are typically paid and augmented by the boosters. They get to rake in all this money from television and the sale of products such as sweatshirts and posters which are often adorned with the images of the players they don't have to pay.
And it is all tax exempt. Hell of a deal.
Maybe while Rep. Thomas is at it, he can take a stab at doing away with baseball's exemption from the anti-trust laws but I guess that would be too much to hope for.
Dr. Brand's response is due by the end of this month. I'll keep you posted.