04 February 2010

Keep your laws out of my football

The Sports Economist | Dennis Coates | College Football Scheduling

A state Delegate from Maryland has recently offered a bill that would require the University of Maryland to schedule games against Towson University and Morgan State University. The Baltimore Sun article reporting the bill does not indicate that economic benefits to the state are a primary motivation for the Terps to play games against the Tigers and Bears. Instead, the rationale is that the Terps, an FBS institution, schedule FCS institutions from out of state (last season they played James Madison University), so they should play in-state FCS institutions Towson and Morgan State instead, at least once every four years. The kicker is, FBS schools make big payouts to schedule FCS institutions. If the FBS school can make a big payday for an out of state FCS, why not make that big payday for an in-state FCS? In other words, the athletic department from College Park ought reasonably to subsidize in-state schools rather than out-of-state schools.

Why such subsidies and the attendant micro-managing implicit in the legislation is good public policy is not explained. [...] In fact, both Towson and Morgan are already scheduled to play games against the Terps in coming years, and this scheduling occurred without the threat of the legislation.
[Emph. mine.]

As a college football fan, a UMD student and a Maryland resident, I must say WTF?  Seriously, Maryland House of Delegates?  This is the kind of shenanigans you're getting up to?

One of the things I like most about Maryland's government — actually, the only thing that springs to mind — is that the legislature meets only 90 days a year.  In theory at least, this keeps them focused on important issues and not flapdoodle like this.  Granted, this is just a bill that's been introduced, and I have no reason to believe it's consuming lots of agenda space, but this is still the kind of thing that should be laughed out of the room.

Delegate Jay Walker, author of HB 462, formerly of the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings, shame on you.

As Garrett Hardin and Thomas Sowell have each counseled, when considering any policy we are wise to continuously ask "and then what?"  Here's what Coates comes up with:
A broader issue is what happens if Maryland passes this legislation, and then fails to schedule games against out-of-state FCS schools. Perhaps other states pass similar legislation. Then the out of state FBS schools that have scheduled Towson and Morgan will be unable or unwilling to do so. The Maryland colleges will no longer get the subsidies from FBS schools from out-of-state. Even if that does not happen, the games against the Terps reduce the number of available games for scheduling out-of-state FBS teams, and reduce the subsidies Towson and Morgan will collect from them. Whether the scheduling of games against the Terps is a net gain or a net loss for Morgan and Towson is not obvious. In any case, it is likely to have little material impact. Of course, alternate legislation could impose the restriction that Morgan and Towson must schedule games against out-of-state FBS schools, as doing so results in revenues. (Whether those revenues cover the travel and other costs is another issue.)

So, for me, legislation such as this is a) likely to have little benefit or cost, and b) the best people to make decisions in the best interests of the institutions are the people leading those institutions. Regarding the first point, if there is little benefit or cost, it is hard to imagine that state legislators don't have better things to do with their time than debate such "issues". Regarding the second, it is clear that adding constraints cannot result in an improved ability to attain the institutional goals. Reducing the ability of the institutions to find scheduling arrangements that are the best for them by limiting their options will, at best, have no effect and at worst make matters worse.

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