Trevor Marsden:Why having a football team would spell scandal

Ah, autumn – this is truly my favorite season in the District. But there is one part of this transitional time that irks me: college football season.

From time to time, I’ve groaned at the lack of a football team here at GW, as many of us have, especially on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the fall. The screaming fans, body paint and tailgating I see on TV makes me wistful for the “full college experience.”

But the scandal-ridden, spend-at-all-costs culture of college football has continued to drive universities’ values off the rails. And at GW, a school prone to a different kind of infighting and financial mismanagement, we should be glad that there’s no football stadium in Foggy Bottom.

In what has been dubbed “the NCAA scandal train,” star players like Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel have broken NCAA pay rules, Penn State knew it was keeping a serial pedophile on the sidelines and a Vanderbilt wide receiver helped cover up an alleged gang rape. And a Sports Illustrated investigative series this month shows just how pervasive abuses of drugs, money and academics are in top-25 programs.

GW hasn’t had a football team since 1966. But if we did, the University already has checked off the boxes to make football a huge liability.

Lack of transparency? Check.

University officials refuse to comment specifically on the funding increase that the Department of Athletics and Recreation has received since GW penned a new strategic plan for sports teams in 2012.

But considering that 2010’s $43 million renovation of the Smith Center was designed to help generate $2 million in annual giving within five years, we can assume that the funding increases are not insignificant. Imagine how costly programs would be if the most expensive sport ­– football – was added to the mix.

Leadership and financial management issues? Check and check.

College football creates plenty of wealth for universities. But those riches bring temptation. Even without college football, GW’s track record isn’t good.

From the recent $13 million overspending by the former GW School of Business dean to the half-billion dollar total investment on campus-wide projects and over $1 billion of debt, GW doesn’t seem equipped to handle another money pit – even if it wanted to.

Throw in the salacious allegations from top GW leaders reported in The Hatchet last week – including a sex scandal, financial corruption and illegal foreign practices – and it’s pretty clear that the University has some leadership issues.

But let’s even forget about GW and scandals for a second and face a major fact: College football programs are expensive. “Athletic departments spend far more per athlete than institutions spend to educate the average student,” according to a thoroughly depressing January report from the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research.

But the shocking part is exactly how much more colleges spend on athletes: The study found that in Division I schools without football, athletes were funded 3.3 times more than the average student. But, schools that have football teams average a staggering 6.7 times more spending on athletes.

The study also found that “athletic costs increased at least twice as fast as academic spending, on a per-capita basis across each of the three Division I subdivisions.” The addition of a football team is nearly proven to increase that inequality in per-student spending.

Finally, the study found that those athletics departments often suck money out of other parts of universities. The report’s finding that “the belief that college sports are a financial boon to colleges and universities is generally misguided” emphatically shows that the lack of football is actually a plus for GW.

So, I never thought I’d say it, but thank you, GW. I don’t know if football here would have automatically spelled another scandal, but at least we have made the decision to steer clear from that frightening prospect.

The writer is a senior majoring in philosophy.

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