(from The Chronicle of Higher Education):
By Brad Wolverton, Ben Hallman, Shane Shifflett and Sandhya Kambhampati
Deep within the stadium, the team gathered for a college football ritual. The marching band gave its cue, and the players bounded through a long tunnel, a blue-and-white blur, pumping fists and high-fiving students who had gathered to cheer.
For a few moments, it was possible to believe that the team’s enthusiasm would be met by the roar of spectators and the full pageantry of game day in the Deep South. But then the tunnel ended and the team, the Georgia State Panthers, emerged into the largely empty 70,000-seat Georgia Dome, home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
An announced crowd of 10,252, clustered at midfield, clapped politely. But a few minutes after kickoff of this season-opening game, after the home team had fumbled the ball on its opening possession, all the energy had left the building.
The Panthers, now in their sixth season, haven’t given fans much reason to celebrate. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, competing at the highest level of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the team recorded just a single victory. Average attendance last year was among the 10 worst in the NCAA’s top level. Yet Georgia State’s 32,000 students are still required to cover much of the cost. Over the past five years, students have paid nearly $90 million in mandatory athletic fees to support football and other intercollegiate athletics — one of the highest contributions in the country.
A river of cash is flowing into college sports, financing a spending spree among elite universities that has sent coaches’ salaries soaring and spurred new discussions about whether athletes should be paid. But most of that revenue is going to a handful of elite sports programs, leaving colleges like Georgia State to rely heavily on students to finance their athletic ambitions. CONTINUE READING HERE