Politics and college sports have collided many times over the years but few could impact schools quite like the oncoming train that might be headed out of Washington, D.C. in the coming weeks and months.
The Republican-controlled House on Thursday passed a new tax bill that is cutting a reported $1.5 trillion on various things from corporate tax rates, the individual tax code to estate taxes. Tucked into the massive bill is one particularly interesting section which is directly aimed at college athletics, eliminating deductions on what were previously classified as charitable contributions for tickets to games.
ESPN caught up with several athletic directors this week and not surprisingly they were a little on edge at the potential changes and seem to think it’s a direct assault on the business model that currently exists.
“If that deduction goes away, what you will see is a dramatic sea change in the college sports landscape,” Duke athletic director Kevin White told the site. “We need to put speed bumps up now to slow this thing down, because I don’t think the politicians have any idea how much this will pull apart our system.”
“While we certainly do not know the exact repercussions, we expect that it would have a damaging effect,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne added. “The philanthropic support of donors is instrumental, and although the amount of contributions from institution to institution varies, it is of equal importance across the board when you look at financial structures. Very few college athletics programs actually make a profit. Take that funding away, and it will be difficult to operate without making dramatic changes.”
College sports, and football in particular, is already facing numerous concerns related to attendance at games and the fact that individuals could lose thousands of dollars in tax write-offs if the House bill is signed could be a huge issue going forward for everybody from Arkansas to Toledo to Wake Forest.
We’re still weeks, if not months, from everything coming to conclusion however, as a similar Senate bill (which ESPN says does not contain the same section on contributions) is expected to face some high hurdles to pass in a much tighter political situation — to say nothing of a potential conference committee on the resolutions. Still, college athletic directors formed a political action committee last year to lobby congress and it sounds like that group is going to be very busy with a fight that might be even bigger than a run to the national title for some programs.