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College Football World Rips Alabama AD for Crying Poverty Over Olympic Sports

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Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne was among the college sports figures in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the future of college sports with a congressional panel.

The advent of NIL already has shifted the landscape in a major way, and the floodgates could further open up as the amateur model faces further legal challenges. According to Byrne, the potential for college athletes to be considered university employees could imperil the entire system, as at Alabama, just two revenue sports—football and men’s basketball—support the rest of the athletic department.

“The excess revenue from these two programs [football and men‘s basketball] effectively offset the roughly $40 million annually the other 19 programs collectively run in losses each year,” Byrne said, per 247Sports. “If it weren’t for football, we would not have 21 sports at the University of Alabama.”

Byrne then cited swimming, tennis, track and soccer as sports that could be cut if the school has to pay athletes directly as result of potential new laws.

That said, he didn’t earn a lot of sympathy from observers, considering schools such as Alabama have made tens of millions of dollars on the play of unpaid athletes for decades. Many fans and pundits online criticized Byrne for his decision to quickly raise the specter of Olympic and women’s sports going away if schools have to pay their revenue-driving players.

i still can’t get over the instinct that ADs have to immediately hold a gun to women’s sports as a threat in budget situations. that says a lot about the system and its leaders

— Brian Floyd (@BrianMFloyd) March 13, 2024

It’s not football players’ responsibility to subsidize the other sports.

If the schools would like to continue funding them, they will. If they don’t want to, it’s because they don’t care enough to fund them.

Don’t believe anything to the contrary.

— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) March 13, 2024

Colleges lose money on a lot of things that they don’t cut because of the benefits they provide to the university and its mission. Most of these sports are inexpensive to operate outside of scholarships, which the university can fund if it wants.

— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 12, 2024

Hundreds of schools without billion-dollar football teams sponsor “unprofitable” sports for many reasons—they attract talented students, foster school spirit, make alumni proud, etc—but the richest athletic departments claim they’d cut ASAP if they had to pay football players

— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) March 12, 2024

did somebody get addicted to running an unsustainable business model

— BUM CHILLUPS AKA SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) March 13, 2024

Many pointed out the salaries of coaches—including former Alabama football coach Nick Saban, a fellow panelist at the hearing—as an area that has become incredibly inflated in a market that keeps players out of a true share in revenue.

Think of how all those sports he’s worried about could have been helped if Alabama wasn’t paying its football coach $11.2 million. Lot of soccer balls and gymnastics beams for that.

— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) March 13, 2024

where could we possibly find the funds

— Mike Golic Jr (@mikegolicjr) March 12, 2024

Of course, Byrne’s argument doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny when one considers the thousands of nonrevenue teams sponsored by small schools, all the way down to the Division II, D-III and NAIA levels. Schools across the country find value in sponsoring these teams beyond the bottom line—and without massive football programs to prop them up.

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