Sports “Donations” a Flagrant College Foul
I love me some Georgetown University basketball, and am happy to pay for the privilege of possessing season tickets. (Well, that is when the Hoyas win pretty regularly and don’t deliver too many abominations like this one.) I’m also more than willing to make the hoops club "donation" that’s required to secure my seats. But it’s high time to end the ludicrous college sports scam – especially in light of our fast-approaching rendezvous with the "fiscal cliff" – that is the tax deduction for ticket-securing "charitable" donations.
My forced giving, to be honest, is pretty small: $100 per seat for some decent, lower bowl (though not center court) seats. But it’s not like I’m spending the dough to support, say, a new science center, or endow a professorship. No, it’s going to support big-time, constantly televised, money-making sports entertainment. And, of course, it is the fun of being an in-person fan – not my selfless desire to, say, engineer mitochondria to better serve humanity – that is animating my "charity." Nonetheless, 80 percent of my donation is tax deductible.
At many big-time sports schools, and for better seats than mine, such forced philanthropy can be much pricier. At some institutions, such as the University of Texas and the University of North Carolina, it is impossible to nail down just how much people have to donate per seat beyond sticker prices because one accumulates donation points over time. Just to make it onto the UT benefits chart, however, you have to donate at least $150, and the top-line is $25,000. Texas A&M lets you know that for "priority" football tickets you’ll have to give between $45 and $3,900 per seat. And for most of the lower-bowl seats at the University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, basketball season tickets require donations of between $850 and $5,000. But don’t worry – part of the price can be handled by corporate matching funds!
If people want to donate generously to college sports programs – including cash-cow football and basketball – that’s fine. And I don’t want government getting any more money than it already has…and flushes down noble-sounding toilets. But giving favored tax status to forced donations for season tickets, as if one were donating to famine relief or cancer research? Even without the nation facing a $16 trillion – and growing – debt, that’s ridiculous.