Who Pays How Much to Sports in the SEC?

The Chronicle of Higher Education and Huffington Post collaborated on an excellent report, “Sports at Any Cost,” which looks at the high financial cost of sports, particularly to smaller schools trying to hit the so-called “big time.”

How does the SEC stack up?  I took the SEC data from a “College Sports Subsidy Scorecard” page they created and came up with this

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 5.59.38 AM

A couple of quick comments:

For institutions that do not rely on student fees, the money comes almost 100 percent from institutional funds, so the students would still pay the cost, but indirectly, through higher tuition, for example.

Vanderbilt University is not included, because it is a private institution and not subject to public records law.

LSU has committed itself to transferring $7.2 million/year from athletics to the general fund — the opposite direction of the subsidies portrayed in this article. In July, the university increased the transfer by $3 million for this year, given the funding crisis facing the university.




May You Always BIRG and Never CORF

The day before the “Prayer in  Jordan-Hare” against Georgia, ironically, I delivered the GameDay lecture for the Auburn Office of Communications and Marketing.  My topic was “This Is Loyalty,” and I presented some research on fan behavior, particularly in rivalries.

After the game, I related some of the content – particularly the concepts of BIRGing and CORFing – on Twitter.  The retweets and replies showed interest, perhaps because they sound like gross things that would happen at post-game keg parties.

It’s not surprising, but BIRGing and CORFing comprises some of the more fun aspects of academic research on fan loyalty.

We’ll blitz through the basics of social identity theory (finding groups that share our interests give our life balance, blah blah blah) and in-group/out-group conflicts (Robbers Cave experiment, yadda yadda yadda), to get to the more current stuff – disposition theory.

Giving credit where credit is due – and defying the cheap-click rivalry attitude of “professional” journalists – I would point out that two researchers from Alabama, Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, have done some of the best work on this.  Type them into a Google Scholar search and party hearty.

But before they did the bulk of their research (including a 20-year trend study of the Iron Bowl rivalry), Robert Cialdini of Arizona State came up with the concepts of BIRGing and CORFing.  BIRGing means “Basking In Reflected Glory” and CORFing means “Cutting Off Reflected Failure.”

First, the B word.  This obviously refers to the way in which fans share a certain joy in their team’s victory, even though they might not have directly participated in it.  I know, I know, the coach always says that the crowd helps, but we’re talking about throwing something down besides nachos.

It goes beyond wearing team apparel to the office on Monday or talking about the game around the water cooler.  The winning team’s fans also report an enhanced self-image and more confidence in making decisions.  This is serious stuff! And when your rival team loses, it increases the BIRG.

CORFing is not the opposite, because fans deal with losses in a different but not opposite way.  Rather than hide from it, they blame it on external factors: “The refs were not going to reverse their call even though Murray did not cross the goal line,” or “Robinson was holding on that last pass.” (Yes, the end of the Georgia game produced quite the CORF-fest on both sides at some point.)

That is because losses often do not diminish a fan’s loyalty to the team, but often strengthens their resolve.  Yes, research does show that fans often show less immediate outward support — fewer jerseys worn.

But we don’t abandon our in-groups quite that easily – even when the rival team wins and our team loses.  They provide us too much social identity to be dumped that easily.

So after the trash talking and the blog commenting and the flag waving, I hope you BIRG to your heart’s content this weekend. Wear the sweatshirt on Monday. Talk about the game. Feel better about yourself and your decisions.

Unless you cheer for my rival.

Then, as one of the attendees at the aforementioned lecture said, “They can go CORF themselves.”

Nothing like statistically significant smack talk.

If Petrino Had Been Named Auburn Coach …



First published in The War Eagle Reader.  find it here.

This is not one of those wild parallel reality articles; I’m not that talented. It’s my take as a faculty member on the just-concluded search for a head coach.

For those nine days, I lived in fear that somehow, Auburn would name Bobby Petrino as head football coach.

Yes, I know that most Auburn fans are glad the process is over and want to move on. I’m glad too. And it might be that for us academics, the desire to beat a dead horse comes with the cap and gown. But I think some reflection is in order.

In my opinion, hiring Petrino would have sent the wrong message to our student-athletes and to all of our students.  The message would have been this: Doing the wrong thing is OK, as long as you win.  Consequences are for losers.

Had the hire been made, I was ready to resign my position on the University Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics,  and I had expressed that willingness to friends who would hold me to it. It might not seem like a big deal; I am finishing a three-year term.

But I could not have continued as a faculty member on the committee if that were the philosophy of the athletics department. Thank God it’s not.

For me, the issue was not so much Petrino’s oft-ridiculed affair with an Arkansas athletics staff member.  He must bear the weight of that privately, and it looks like he will, for a long time.

It was that he created an ethical nightmare for his school, and might have violated the law, by hiring that staff member to a better-paid position on the staff of a state university.  As I posted in an early tweet, any athletics director would be crazy to hire Petrino, knowing that he had done that.

And let’s not forget that within the Jetgate scandal, Petrino made his own missteps by not informing his athletics director that he was seeking the Auburn job.  Obviously, that would have threatened the process’s secrecy, but once again, Petrino subverted ethical principle to his own interest.

At the NFL level, that’s another debate. I won’t talk about what happened in Atlanta.  But on a college campus (and as I frequently state, this is college football) this is serious stuff.

Despite appearances, a college campus is not an FBS football factory.  It is a setting where thousands of mostly young men and women, some of them athletes, learn at a variety of levels — academic, social, and yes, ethical.

We enforce an academic honor code, and when a student crosses that line, he or she should be prosecuted.  And not just to be punished for trying to succeed by breaking the rules. The idea is for students to recognize that there are consequences for academic dishonesty. We don’t publicly announce individual student verdicts, but they know the process is there. If there were no consequences, cheating would be even more of a problem than it is now.

But it’s hard to expect students to accept that, when they know that a football coach catches a break because of his winning percentage.

In so many ways, critics complain that college football is out of control.  At Auburn, $11 million in buyouts to a fired coach and his staff supports the argument.  An eagerness to hire a disgraced coach because of his winning percentage would have added to that perception.

For all of the heat Jay Jacobs has been catching, his record in promoting the academic welfare of student-athletes has not been mentioned. Under his leadership, our students have shined. Football player Ashton Richardson was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship. Soccer player Katy Frierson and diver Dan Mazziaferro were finalists for the prestigious Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship.

But his search committee did not hire Bobby Petrino. And for that I am grateful.