Coming August 2015
Two-time Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Gilbert M. Gaul offers a riveting and sometimes shocking look inside the money culture of college football and how it has come to dominate a surprising number of colleges and universities.Over the past decade college football has not only doubled in size, but its elite programs have become a $2.5-billion-a-year entertainment business, with lavishly paid coaches, lucrative television deals, and corporate sponsors eager to slap their logos on everything from scoreboards to footballs and uniforms. Profit margins among the top football schools range from 60% to 75%—results that dwarf those of such high-profile companies as Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—yet thanks to the support of their football-friendly representatives in Congress, teams aren’t required to pay any taxes. In most cases, the windfalls are not passed on to the universities themselves, but flow directly back into their athletic departments, feeding an ever-growing sports complex.College presidents have been unwilling or powerless to reform a system that has spawned a wildly profligate infrastructure of coaches, trainers, class checkers, marketing gurus, and a growing cadre of tutors, learning specialists and psychologists whose sole purpose is to ensure that players remain academically eligible to play. From the University of Oregon’s extravagant $42 million academic center for athletes to Alabama coach Nick Saban’s $7 million paycheck—ten times what the school pays its president, and 70 times what a full-time professor there earns—Gaul examines in depth the extraordinary business model that supports college football and the effect it has not only on other athletic programs but on academic ones as well. What are the consequences when college football coaches are the highest paid public employees in over half the states in an economically troubled country, or when football players at some schools receive ten times the amount of scholarship awards that academically gifted students do? Billion-Dollar Ball considers these and many other issues in a compelling account of how a startlingly wealthy sports franchise has reframed campus values and distorted the fundamental academic mission of our universities.