Thursday, February 01, 2007

Is BYU Football A Waste of Tithing?

In recent years, particularly after the huge new indoor practice facility was funded and built, I've heard some people question the legitimacy of spending so much money on sports at Brigham Young University. As is evident from the name of my blog, I'm a huge fan of BYU sports, especially football and basketball. I believe that the funds spent on BYU sports are not wasted.

Let me first state that I don't know whether tithing monies are used to support BYU sports. I know that a lot of people have donated money to build the Indoor Practice Facility, Larry H. Miller Field, and other facilities. I also know that the sports programs raise money through ticket sales, advertising, and concessions, and I know that companies like Nike may help supply uniforms. I don't know whether the sports programs pay for themselves. If they don't (and the point of this post is not to debate the profitability of the various mens and womens programs), I don't know whether tithing funds are used to make up the difference in revenues and expenses.

For the purpose of this post, let's assume that some tithing funds are used to support BYU sports. If you disagree (and you may be right), then at least we can agree some people donate huge amounts of money which arguably could be spent on more humanitarian or gospel-related projects.

Given those assumptions, I still believe that the money spent on BYU sports is well-spent for many reasons. In my mind, the primary reason is that BYU's sports programs, especially football, are an indispensable missionary tool which reaches many people other missionary programs are less likely to reach. Take this recent article on the San Francisco Chronicle website, for example. The author talked to the well-known Reverend Jerry Falwell. They talked about football. Reverend Falwell said, "My respect for Catholicism and Mormonism goes straight up watching Notre Dame and Brigham Young play." Sure, I don't think BYU football will convert Jerry Falwell, but it shows what a positive effect BYU sports can have on people who probably wouldn't listen to the missionaries.

We are aware of the many players who came to BYU from various backgrounds and later joined the Church. Many are now serving as member missionaries in various parts of the world.

Other former BYU players and coaches now at the professional level also continue to spread goodwill about the Church in countless ways. Take a look, for example, at this Philadelphia NBC 10 story by Vai Sikahema about Andy Reid, both Church members who were formerly involved with BYU football.

Funds spent on BYU sports also help to reach countless youth, members and non-members alike, in a positive manner. So many LDS young men and women are involved in high school sports and want to continue on at the collegiate level. Others want to attend a university where they can be involved in different ways from the marching band and cheerleading to rabid fan and supporter. Without strong programs, many of these students would go elsewhere and participate in programs that are not as tolerant of missions nor as strong in upholding the values we believe in.

Whether or not tithing is used to support BYU football and other sports, I believe the money spent on BYU's sports programs is worth it. These programs play a significant role in the missionary efforts of the Church and its progress.


Clark Goble said...

Unless I'm mistaken BYU football makes a profit, not the opposite.

A.Salima said...

I believe you should change the title of your blog as absolutely no tithing goes into BYU football. BYU football is self-sustaining. The only way tithing is involved is if the coaches, who are LDS, "pay" tithing. Good thoughts though. Thanks.

Michael said...

Every major college football sports fan is adamant in stating that the football teams don't take away money from general university funds but actually contribute to the finances of the university. This claim in made at the University of Florida, Penn State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, UCLA AND at the BYU.

However, the NY Times magazine did a major investigative report last year to get to the bottom of this issue and, guess what, it just ain't so.

High profile college football programs take large amounts of money away from general funds (even with all the financial support from Nike, Larry H. Miller, and all the other testosterone addicted wanna-be middle aged men.

These programs have budgets that run into the tens of millions of dollars and they are, with very few exceptions, NOT self-sufficient. However, the only way they can continue to get the fools convinced that it is worthwhile is to put forth the false belief that they actually contribute to the school's funds.

If this sounds familiar, it is the same thing that the major sports teams do to convince city's to spend hundreds of millions on new stadiums at taxpayer expense. This is going on right now here in Orlando. The University of Central Florida wants to ramp up its football program with a new stadium and the Orlando Magic also want their own new arena. Both are supposed to be financed by the taxpayers.

High profile sports do not belong in college. That is why the Ivy League schools don't overindulge and don't offer inflated scholarships to players who can't even pass an eigth grade level math class.

P.S. This is all spoken of in the Book of Mormon if you read it and study it.

Michael said...

A. Salima,

Please provide the source documentation on your statement that "BYU football is self-sustaining." As BYU or the Church do not provide detailed financial statements on its revenue and expenses, where did you get this information? If it is just hearsay or conjecture from someone's statement, then you cannot make a statement of fact. You can only make a statement of belief.

Doc said...

Name a University with a decent football team where the team's revenue isn't carrying the whole athletic department. The documentation is the television contrancts, the full stadiums and Provo traffic on gameday. The real quesion, is it moral to depend on the false football Gods to fund the Church's University?

Anonymous said...

According to a friend of mine who works in the athletic dept, BYU was losing money on football games in the 2005 season. Granted, that's hearsay, and even if it was true then, it may not have been true for the 2006 season. I think we would have to see the numbers to know.

I too have heard the rumors that BYU Football is self-sustaining. I'm not saying these rumors are false, but I've never seen them substantiated.

Michael said...

Dear doc,

That NY Times Magazine article that I referenced spoke of the full stadiums, gridlock traffic, and the TV contracts as well as all the clothing sales. Even with that stuff, most teams are still in the red. The article was very well done and blew the assumptions out of the water.

TylerD said...

Assuming that BYU's athletic department as a whole is not self-supporting financially, I would still argue the programs are worth the investment for the reasons I stated in the blog. I know many people disagree with this as is clear from comments above. That's why I wanted to state my position. Nobody can disagree with the proposition that BYU's sporting programs have had a positive impact on many people outside the Church. The question is whether the benefits to the Church and the individuals who draw closer to the Lord are worth the cost of supporting these programs.

Jon said...

Nobody can disagree with the proposition that BYU's sporting programs have had a positive impact on many people outside the Church.

I highly disagree. People don't join, begin to care about the church or jump in the water due to BYU athletics. They may form a casual association with the two, but linking a 'positive impact' is misleading at best, especially when the news hits about gang rapes, etc.

TylerD said...

Jon, I'm not sure what school of logic you graduated from, but your points don't disprove my assertion. Without a doubt, BYU's sporting programs have had a positive impact on many people outside the Church. It's true that a very small percentage of BYU's football players have done some bad things, but I could list many non-members who have come to BYU because of its sporting programs and left with a degree, a respect for the Church, a greater spiritual maturity, and Church membership in many instances. Then, consider the favorable attitude many people have about missionaries because they learn many football players have served missions. Also consider the firesides that Coach Mendenhall and his players hold during the football season wherever they travel. Many people including non-members attend these firesides and are touched by the testimonies they hear. As a result, I reassert my statement that BYU sports has had a positive impact on many people outside the Church. The interesting question is why you feel the way you do. Did you have a bad experience with BYU sports?

Jon said...

I'll spot you the first point about non-LDS coming to BYU as athletes and leaving with positive impression. There are also numerous instances of athletes (especially football) being dismissed for Honor Code(tm) violations or due to the fact they didn't fit in and end up spreading the word in their communities about how horrible the Church and BYU are (see: Ronny Jenkins among others).

Then, consider the favorable attitude many people have about missionaries because they learn many football players have served missions.

That school of logic must have been working overtime on this one because that made no sense to me. So because I find out that an athlete has been on a mission I'm more likely to have a favorable impression of missionaries?

Your last point might be the most relevant, but the entire sporting program isn't generally involved in giving firesides. I don't believe I've ever been invited to a women's tennis team fireside before...

TylerD said...

Interestingly, in a February 16, 2007 Deseret News online article, Tom Holmoe was quoted as saying, "the reality of it is, we can't lose money on our operations." While the article is about higher football ticket prices and upgrades to Cougar Stadium, it's not clear whether he was speaking of BYU football or the whole sports program. Here's the article.

TylerD said...

BYU Magazine just published a great article about the way Bronco Mendenhall has reinvented Cougar football. The article includes references to the firesides Bronco and his players have held, and it also talks about the positive influence BYU football has had on its players. I love the mission of BYU football under Bronco: "To be the flag bearer of Brigham Young University through football excellence, and to embrace truth, virtue, and honor as a beacon to the world." BYU football truly is a beacon to the world.

TylerD said...

Searching the Internet for more information on the funding of BYU's sports program, I found a good article in the Deseret News online edition, May 20, 2002:

"Sponsorship by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't translate into deep pockets for BYU sports. Monies instead come from the LDS Foundation, Cougar Club, endowed scholarships and season tickets. 'No tithing dollars go toward funding our program, so the reality is that we have to earn our own keep,' said BYU associate A.D. Duff Tittle. 'Over half our operating budget comes from season ticket sales in football and basketball. . . . The health and success of our program depends on full stadiums.'"

HMB said...

tylerD, I could just as easily say the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a positive influence on the Church. You brought justifying the expense in BYU or the Church investing in the football program. Are you basically saying that the school and the church get the money back based on the supposed "influence" football has? Using that logic one could also question whether that money could be better spent on even more effective evangelism activities.

KyleM said...

Now as a point of interest, at this last General Conference did everyone here raise their hand and sustain the leadership of the church epically the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve? I will assume "yes" although I may be mistaken. With that being said, if tithing monies do go into this program then why does it matter? If the Prophet sees fit that tithe needs to be spent in this matter, then I sustain it because I sustain him. You also can't argue that "he only does it because hes a big football fan" because we all know what happens if the Prophet ever misuses his power. This comment is based on my having a complete testimony in the church so I KNOW that there is a reason for tithe monies going into the football program. Also something of note is the fact that the church is one of the wealthiest in the world. In the most basic of terms most of this money is spent on PR... (Missionaries, BYU, free copies of the Book of Mormon, ect) so, when in the history of the world has football not been a good PR move. Nike gives sponsorship, (what you think they do it out of the kindness of their hearts)a field was named after Larry H. Miller, (it might have been done to support BYU, but no publicity is bad publicity) and so on. If the church has endorsed a football program for BYU, doesn't it stand to reason that some publicity for the church will come out of it? If one soul is led to Christ because of the program, then I believe its worth it. As for the comment about why would an athlete being a missionary make me have a positive connotation about the missionaries, take a look here:
now tell me if there is someone on that list you know. Every week families around the nation let these men into their homes. Now you explain to me how the principle of heroes work. If you view a person as a hero wouldn't you be more apt to listen to what they have to say? Its a sad state to be in, in the world, but if you can reach just one person isn't it worth it?

The Passionate Cougar said...

I haven't read all the comments on this post, but let me add that I agree with your sentiments. If BYU athletics were not a missionary tool, I believe resources (even though not from tithing) would be better used elsewhere.