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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


With a new governor soon to take office in a state that is facing a massive government financial crisis, a litany of problems continues to mount. Higher education is on the ropes both financially and academically. Healthcare costs continue to spiral, undercut by a current governor who ignored the opportunity of filling the gap with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. The new governor will certainly have his plate full from day one.

A new nationwide study, just released by consulting firm 24/7 Wall Street, shows just how far the Bayou State needs to climb. Louisiana ranks 48th in a list of best states to live. It has the third highest poverty rate, 11th lowest rate of population growth, fourth lowest rate of life expectancy, and the highest rate of violent crime. These figures are consistent with numerous other similar studies in recent years.

You would expect that these results would headline newspapers across the state. Not quite. You see, there is even a bigger story that has dominated the front pages of major newspapers and headlined the nightly TV news. The story has been the continual fodder for talk radio: What to do about LSU football coach Les Miles?

For those of you who do not live or die LSU football, here are a few statistics. Coach Miles has the highest percentage of wins in LSU history. He has a better record in the past five years than did former Coach Nick Sabin in the five years he coached in Baton Rouge. His recruiting class for next season is ranked number one in the nation, and there are more LSU players currently in the NFL coming from Miles’ teams than any other college in the country. He’s won a national championship, two SEC championships, and runs one of the most financially successful football programs in the country.

So what’s all the controversy you ask? They can’t decide on how big a raise to give him? How long to extend his contract? Build a bronze statute of him next to Mike the Tiger’s cage? Hardly. Some wealthy football boosters apparently had the ear of LSU President King Alexander as well as athletic director Joe Alleva, and they wanted Coach Miles fired. Now it would only cost $17 million to buy out the coach and his assistants. Plus a similar cost to hire a new coach and staff. I guess that’s considered chickenfeed when your university has its back against the financial wall and is threatening to shut down numerous academic programs.

The LSU athletic department will protest that it generates all its own financing and that there are no state tax dollars involved. That’s not quite the case. Yes, there is a profit over expenses that covers a good bit of the athletic program’s costs. But it’s a far cry from all that “giving back” it claims. The initial Tiger Stadium construction and the majority of improvements over the years have been paid for by legislative appropriations. So has all the infrastructure of roads surrounding the athletic complex as well as the cost of security for all the athletic facilities. Employees of the football office and other sports receive state subsidies for retirement and healthcare.

And what about all this profit from LSU football we keep hearing about? Forbes Magazine just last week reported net revenue of $60,564,780, a 21.3 percent increase from last year. And it’s no secret as to why. A football ticket in Tiger stadium is one of the most expensive in the country averaging $147.47. Ticket prices at a majority of SEC schools are much lower. So the profit LSU ballyhoos is paid for on the backs of an average family that often cannot afford such a cost. Is it fair for a father with an ordinary income to tell his kid: “Son, I pay taxes to support that university, but I just can’t afford the cost they charge to take you to a game”?

The Coach has been given a reprieve for the time being. Sure Les Miles needs to modernize his game plan and make some staff changes. He is too locked in to an antiquated running game and needs to recruit a five star quarterback. But that’s all insider stuff. To the average taxpaying sports fan, paying off Les Miles and bringing in a new coach at an even greater cost should make no good business sense.

LSU made a deal. And for better or for worse, they need to live by it.


“College athletics is a big business that ought to be more businesslike.

Too many administrators outspend their revenues.”

Tim Sullivan

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.





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