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Vo-Techs Provide Value Without Sport; Et Tu, Regental Institutions?

A WNAX story about SDSU’s effort to translate its athletic publicity into recruitment of students and donors got me thinking about our sportless vo-tech schools. Without so much as a croquet team, our vo-techs keep enrolling thousands of students. Lake Area doesn’t need a football stadium with skyboxes to draw the attention of President Barack Obama and ten-million-dollar donor MacKenzie Scott. And as I noted last Sunday, our vo-tech graduates get jobs that pay pretty good starting wages compared to South Dakota’s average pay.

South Dakota has four institutions of higher education that provide paycheckable skills to thousands of students every year while spending zero dollars on sport. No coaching staffs, no far-flung athlete-recruiting trips, no astroturf or arenas, just smart people teaching useful skills.

If our legislators are really interested in improving efficiency at our Regental institutions and not just promoting the ill-informed Republican war on education, perhaps they could ask the Regents to what extent they could replicate the vo-techs’ sportless yet successful business model.

Related Reading: This article will probably sound too much like critical race theory to our legislators, but two Brookings Institute scholars say college sports relies on a fundamentally regressive and unjust business model that transfers wealth from poor minority students to wealthy and mostly white students and coaches.



  1. O 2021-05-28

    Cory, your last line: ” . . . perhaps they could ask the Regents to what extent they could replicate the vo-techs’ sportless yet successful business model.” is the crux fo the problem. That our university system seems entrenched in a business — not education — model to determine how it operates means that the focus is on “customers..” How can students be exploited for their financial resources. Things like luxury dorms/rec centers/climbing walls, which increased rates of enrollment (but not necessarily graduation?) look only at getting money from the pockets of students. Universities are businesses. Look at the fees that students pay in addition to tuition.

  2. Edwin Arndt 2021-05-28

    I read a column by George Will recently that contained
    the phrase “expensively schooled and negligibly educated”.
    Sometimes that fits our institutions of higher learning.

  3. mike from iowa 2021-05-28

    I believe George Will. like other right wing pundits had a huge boner for “liberal arts” educations in Ivy League schools. I could be wrong.

  4. Edwin Arndt 2021-05-28

    For whatever it’s worth, Will went to Princeton.

  5. Porter Lansing 2021-05-28

    Sports are fun.

    Sports are popular.

    Wonder why academics are against sports on campus?

    Sports create revenue that their academic disciplines don’t.

    That’s jealousy, folks.

  6. O 2021-05-28

    Porter: “Sports create revenue that their academic disciplines don’t.” I have to disagree; I believe it is deeper than simple jealousy.

    Sports also charge fees to all academics (students) that may or may not fund activities those students chip in for. I would need to be convinced that sports are a net positive economic contribution to the university system when all costs are factored into the calculus. The difficulty in that calculus is the alumni/angel donations to sports that would not transfer to academics in the absence of sports.

    Any discussion of revenue creation also needs to be held in the contest of the exploitation of labor of their athletes that universities enjoy. I expect it is far easier to have a profitable business model when you do not pay your labor.

  7. Mark Anderson 2021-05-28

    Its simple just remember at Wossamotta U they fired the English Department to hire a good coach for their horrible football team. Bullwinkle and Rocky were given scholarships and the rest is history. My 31 years at Ringling, an art college we had one team that was the height of stupidity, quidditch. They did fly to New York to play in a tournament and apparently did well, how could you tell? They did fly there.

  8. cibvet 2021-05-28

    What other country prioritizes sports over education like this country? Also curious, do other countries have the alcohol and drug problem this country has? Maybe the US should retire its macho image and get back to education.

  9. Donald Pay 2021-05-28

    Overall I think college sports teams have a net positive impact on a campus and on the community. Sure, the jocks get far more publicity than they deserve. This is especially true in major conference football, basketball and hockey. The other sports are just a tad below the marching band. Don’t snort at that. The band has a huge following at UW-Madison.

    The biggest positive of sports is they bring in a more diverse student body. The football team looks a lot more like America than, for example, the Botany Department. And don’t forget alumni giving. If you land a football player into the NFL, you’re going to get a faster return on investment than waiting for business major to rise to CEO level. The problem I see is that the athletes, while getting a lot of attention, are mostly slaves. Sure, many get a free education, but they work pretty damn hard for that benefit. They probably get far under minimum wage. Time to unionize.

    The biggest impact of sports is on the community and business. It fills the bars on what otherwise would be a slow Saturday afternoon. The restaurants are full before and after the game. The biggest supporters of sports are the food and beverage industry.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2021-05-28

    Well…I’m with Don Pay on this one. The move to Division I and II by South Dakota Board of Regents institutions has been a positive shot in the arm and has increased interest in higher education in all aspects.

  11. Porter Lansing 2021-05-28

    Oh, it’s jealousy alright. The Big Ten Conference has established a new benchmark in the how-high-is-up world of college sports finance: It recorded nearly $759 million in revenue during its 2018 fiscal year.

    It’s common for the highest paid state employee in the state to be the football coach at the University.
    No.1, Jim Harbaugh: $8,036,179
    University of Michigan

    No. 2, James Franklin: $6,700,000* (scheduled pay)
    Penn State

    No. 3, Ryan Day: $5,651,694
    Ohio State University

    No. 4, Pat Fitzgerald: $5,218,658
    Northwestern University

    No. 5, Mel Tucker: $5,057,250
    Michigan State University

    No. 6, Scott Frost: $4,833,333
    University of Nebraska

    No. 7, Jeff Brohm: $4,800,000* (scheduled pay)
    Purdue University

    No. 8, Kirk Ferentz: $4,670,750
    University of Iowa

    No. 9, P.J. Fleck: $4,281,680
    University of Minnesota

    No. 10, Paul Chryst: $3,983,750
    University of Wisconsin

    No. 11, Lovie Smith: $3,800,000
    University of Illinois

    No. 12, Tom Allen: $3,770,000
    Indiana University

    No. 13, Greg Schiano: $3,763,336
    Rutgers University

    No. 14, Mike Locksley: $2,474,750
    University of Maryland
    Source: USA Today

  12. mike from iowa 2021-05-29

    Little behind the times in pay, Porter. From Des Moines Register Ferentz at iowa was paid 5.5 mil in 2020.

    We’ve recently updated our state salaries database for fiscal year 2018, and most Iowans are familiar with the names at the top.

    The four highest-paid state employees are, yep, you guessed it, the men’s basketball and football coaches at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

    Kirk Ferentz stands alone atop the list, earning five million dollars in 2018. No one else on the list makes more than two million.

  13. Porter Lansing 2021-05-29

    Thanks, MFI
    How much revenue do the Hawkeyes football and basketball programs generate each year?
    How about the University of Iowa math department? \
    Drama department?
    Art department?

  14. Donald Pay 2021-05-29

    Yeah, not sure when it was, but football and basketball coaches passed state medical school doctors as the highest paid state employees and now it ain’t even close. When I said above that sports are a net positive, I didn’t mean to imply that there aren’t things wrong with the college athletic system. There should be a cap on the money paid to coaches. They should cut those salaries by an order of magnitude. Paul Chyrst is a good coach and a nice guy, but that’s worth $400,000 in my book, not almost $4 million.

  15. cibvet 2021-05-29

    I wonder how football and basketball would be played if there were no math, drama, art and science departments and which people of all those disciplines go on to be productive members of society.

  16. Porter Lansing 2021-05-29

    Wonder all you choose.

    Money talks and college professors are highly jealous of college sport coach’s salaries.

    Every one I personally know and most every time the subject is brought up teachers are vocal about their disdain for sports in general.

    Are you a teacher, cibvet?

  17. Porter Lansing 2021-05-29

    You see, teachers are highly competitive with each other. History teachers don’t particularly respect science teachers and math teachers don’t especially like English teachers. It stems from when they were students. The athletic kids went to sports practice after school and the brainiac kids went home to study, in order to compete with each other. The smart kids worked to impress their teachers while athletic kids worked to impress sports coaches.

    As professors they still compete in order to further the “piece of the pie” their department receives.
    But, the sports department buys and bakes the pie, then eats it’s fill, leaving the rest of the university to fight for what’s left.

    It’s no wonder highly competitive academic scholars are jealous of the mostly simpleton, sports departments.

  18. Trek 2021-05-29

    Remember Peter Lansing, Northwestern is NOT a state school.

  19. cibvet 2021-05-30

    No porter, not a teacher, blue collar all the way. The main difference between you and me is that I never spend my weekends dressing up in sports regalia romanticizing that it IS ME in their field of dreams. They choose to get their brains beaten about, bones broken and crippled for life for your fantasy. The great American macho dream. For my family, it was education “all the way”.

  20. Mark Anderson 2021-05-30

    Porter, I always had tennis on in my art classes while the students worked. Actually, it was just Nadal. Just like every farmer has baseball on in every tractor. I follow the University womens basketball team every game even contacted Chloe Lamb and told her my old college roommate who lives in Texas, was following them too. As I previously said I wasn’t jealous of my own colleges Quidditch coach, really I wasn’t. As far as football baking the pie for colleges, let’s see about paying the bakers of that pie too, not just the master or rather the coach of those teams.

  21. Mike Livingston 2021-05-30

    What is your trophy cabinet filled with Porter?

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