Sports

College Football Programs Shell Out Big Money for a Strong Tweet Game to Woo Free Labor

Colleges are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to recruit players with social media so they will come play football for free.
December 29, 2016, 4:40pm
"People love memes. You gotta tweet memes." Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, when I take a step back and think of elections and campaigning I'm reminded how crazy it all is. This year, there was probably upwards of $2 billion (rough estimate) raised to help candidates get elected. All that fundraising, all those donations, all to convince people for one person or the other, and not to actually help them. It would be easier and more helpful for society to just give all that money away—for healthcare, for stipends, for charities—than to run ads telling you how good Candidate X is and how much he or she wants to help.

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College sports is really similar. It's beloved by many because it's wonderful theater but there are enough times when you realize how absurd it is. It's a multi-billion dollar industry tied up in onerous regulation, where labor can't get paid, and turns coaches into demigods, often making them the highest-paid public employees in their states. Has anyone mentioned that the labor doesn't get paid?

Which brings me to exhibit No. 54267 in the case against amateurism: The new thing in college football is apparently to have the best Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat game. Gotta recruit wherever recruits are. This Sports Illustrated story does a really good job of explaining that world and giving you a peek into it.

But this paragraph strikes you:

Since 2013, Clemson has added about $167,000 annually to its payroll for creative content in its football program. In the past two years, Ohio State officials estimate they've added $100,000. The money is used for staff, equipment and ancillary costs in competing digitally at the highest level.

So Clemson is spending an extra $167,000 annually now to convince recruits to come play football for them. That's a lot of money to blow on social media gurus and fancy graphic design. And more staffers. And more staffers get paid. And getting paid more and more.

All because Clemson or any other school can't actually pay that money to players. Seems fair. Schools pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to convince players to go there and once they get there they get "paid" with a "free" "education."

Meanwhile, athletic directors are going to start lobbying Congress. Probably to ensure that players don't get paid.