What place should football have in high school?

According to a column in District Administrator, those programs could be a great source of income for districts. From ticket sales to advertising and sponsorships, there’s a lot of money to be made. Oh yeah, and… “they are a source of pride and promotional value for a region, and an important resource that can be used for school and community activities”. But mostly the money.

The writer of this post continues to explain that profits will come only if districts are willing to make some big investments in infrastructure. Like the $60 million stadium, complete with “state-of-the art video scoreboard”, built for one Texas high school. Or the 12,000 seat stadium to be shared by three high schools in a nearby Texas district. Or a “$62 million facility with 12,000 seats that will be used by seven high schools”. Also Texas. See a pattern here?

By the way, the fact that the primary examples in the article promoting high school stadiums are in Texas simply exemplifies that state’s traditional obsession with high school football. If you’d like a better understanding of that infatuation, I highly recommend the book “Friday Night Lights”, which forms the foundation for the movie and TV series of the same name but, in my opinion, is better than either.

Anyway, outside of Texas, he finds a few more, slighly less lavish examples of schools building new facilities for their teams and collecting large fees for naming rights, plus selling advertising and “promotional opportunities” to local businesses. Even income from television rights for high school games he says is a “revenue option”.

And that’s enough of this incredibly stupid idea: that high schools should be putting large amounts of money into, not to mention even more emphasis, on their sports programs. As a professor of sports management who literally wrote a book on the subject notes in the article, “Only a very few, highly successful football programs with large seating capacities and proactive corporate partnership arrangements could even come close to paying for themselves.”

Which mirrors college athletics in which more than half the programs in the “power five” conferences lost money in 2014, despite a decade of increasing “investment” at those schools. But that’s just the most visible part of the issue.

For the vast majority of the more than 4,000 colleges and universities in America, athletic departments should lose money. Their football and basketball teams don’t appear on national television, apparel companies don’t pay them millions for endorsement deals and they don’t have stadiums and arenas generating millions in ticket revenue.

So, district administrators should take a lousy business model, one that largely serves as no-cost-to-them farm teams for professional athletics and benefits relatively few students, and push it down into high school.

Where budgets are already lacking for actual academic programs. And where, for many schools, football already sucks up excessive time and resources, while also benefitting very few students and producing major distractions for the rest.