Privatizing State Universities? Start with the Football Team!

privatizationNew Orleans       Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s quixotic quest for the Republican nomination for President has pretty much disappeared in the throes of his budget and taxes regime over two terms that has virtually bankrupted the state in general and almost decimated the public higher education facilities in Louisiana.  He is not alone, since the same playbook has been used in Wisconsin, Kansas, and other states practicing the same no-tax-and-burn strategy against the public good.  The whole mess has gotten so ridiculous that one of the State Board of Regents, theoretically the governing board for state system, though usually little more than puppets playing out their terms for their gubernatorial sponsor, has now proposed a uniquely bizarre privatization “solution,” of carving out some pieces of the public universities and making them private colleges without state support.  The headline hit the newspapers to competition with another headline that the generally well regarded private university in New Orleans, Tulane, wanted to finally deal with a problem they had of falling $20 million short annually in their budgeting.

Let’s not waste time with how crazy this latest privatization notion is other than listing some of the obvious problems.  Would the almost bankrupt state pitch in an endowment?  Who would be the big bucks that would pony up for the new outfit?  Why would students or professors migrate over to the supposedly “best” pieces of the public system and pay more tuition to do so, and what would happen to the public system when they lost their crown jewels.  My breakfast partner mentioned that they must assume they could sell real estate, but the state owns the real estate, so would that be gifted over, and if so, where would they house the new whatever you might call it.  The list of “cons” for such a notion is endless.

Let’s be honest the only thing that the state system could privatize that could stand on its own, survive, and maybe generate a profit back to the mother ship either in Louisiana or anywhere in the South Eastern Conference would be let the football team go private and be seen as the pros they already are, since it’s virtually a matter of degree without a difference.   We’ve already had to stop pretending that the myth of a student-athlete at this level is anything but that as both the players, the universities, and the multi-billion dollar NCAA virtually concede the boys should be paid somehow someway.  The infrastructure is already in place.  The stadiums have been built.  The CEOs, or coaches as they call them, are already paid in the millions every year with scores of staff, a recruiting system, and everything else.  Right now the LSU team, always highly ranked and sometimes a national championship winner, delivers millions to the bottom line at LSU.  Let’s just unleash all of the pretense and shackles so that we can get big time investors in the team and distribute the profits to LSU and the rest of the system.

The door has been opened and the same thing would work in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and maybe even South Carolina.  In Kentucky maybe they could privatize the “one-and-done” basketball team.

Clearly the Republicans don’t give a hoot about public higher education, but maybe they would still cheer and lay out the bucks for the teams.