Take this blog with a grain of salt, because I know just enough about sports to keep my guy card in good standing. College football is always better when Notre Dame is doing well. Some teams doing well are just good for their respective sports. The Yankees in baseball. The Lakers in basketball. Notre Dame, among others, in college football. Teams with a legacy, a history of winning. College sports is big business and where there’s big business there is big money and where there’s big money, the government wants its cut.

Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee sent an eight-page letter to NCAA president Myles Brand, asking pointed questions on why college sports should continue to be exempt from taxes.

The thing about college sports teams is that they are the public face of the university. So much of the university pride, the school spirit if you will, is tied to the performance of the team. It’s analogous to a city and their pro franchises. Because of all of the dollars heading to all of the largest teams, the government sees money that it can’t get a hold of and wants its cut – all in the name of getting schools to improve the academic plight of student-athletes.

In other words, it’s for the children. They’re our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

I’m not going to lie, the idea of this idealistic student-athlete is a myth that even I don’t have the faith to believe in. We want the experience to teach them about life, leadership, being a team player. More often, however, athletic programs develop narcissism in their coddled athletes like it was a class they automatically got an A in without having to attend. Let’s be honest here: Division I football and basketball programs are little more than farm leagues for professional teams.

Should so much money be poured into it via tax free status (or for that matter, actively subsidized by taxpayers in the case of government funded universities)? No, especially in the case of a Division I program who is more than self-sustaining. TV deals, corporate sponsors, an actively contributing alumni – the football program is the horse that pulls the athletic department cart. As far as I’m concerned, athletic departments should be completely separate from the university budget and completely subsidized by those interests, but that’s just me. There are more programs out there than the Division A schools, schools who struggle. The bigger societal question we have to ask is are we sacrificing college athletes–who aren’t academically challenged and most of whom won’t go pro–in order for colleges to get pools of money? But that’s not my issue at the moment.

If there’s money perceived to be had, the government has no shame about going after it, Republican or Democrat, altruistic justifications aside. Little better than mafia dons with a protection racket, the ends justifying the means, going after non-profit hospitals, credit unions, and now colleges. They’ll be coming after mega-churches and their tax exempt status too. However, sometimes you need the threat of a stick when the carrot ain’t working. And the Federal government in their business is quite the stick in the NCAA’s behind. In the meantime, go Irish!

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