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Trev Alberts’ SEC Meeting ‘Spending’ Line Has a Familiar Ring

With the Southeastern Conference holding its spring meetings in Florida this week, Texas A&M’s newly minted athletic director Trev Alberts appeared to steal the show Tuesday with a choice phrase about the state of the college sports industrial complex.

“We don’t have a revenue problem in college sports, we have a spending problem,” Alberts observed, when asked about the new financial pressures placed on athletic departments by provision in the House v. NCAA settlement.

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Though Alberts’ revenue/spending parallelism seemed to dazzle the assembled college sports media in Destin, Fla. and beyond—several who proclaimed it the quote of the day—it is actually a well-worn Washington cliché and Republican talking point about the national debt.

A Texas A&M athletics spokesperson said Alberts was not available to comment. Last month, the Aggies AD made news when he announced the school—which owes former football coach Jimbo Fisher a record-setting $75 million buyout—would be laying off more than a dozen athletic administrators, while insisting the two were not related.

Indeed, at the start of the year, the GOP-led House Budget Committee put out a memo with the line posted at the top.

According to a Slate article, the phrase’s origin dates back to a speech President Ronald Reagan gave to the National Association of Realtors in March 1982, when the federal deficit was then a mere 13 figures.

“We don’t have a trillion-dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough,” Reagan remarked at the time. “We have a trillion-dollar debt because we spend too much.”

Eight years later, Democrat Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to proclaim: “We do not have in this country a taxing problem as much as we have a spending problem.”

However, for the most part, it’s been GOPers who have found the phrase most useful in espousing their case for a smaller government and lower taxes.

Alberts is not the first one to apply the platitude to college sports.

In 2015, former Kansas State president Kirk Schulz, then chair of the NCAA’s board of governors, was interviewed by USA Today about college sports and money.

“I think it’s a spending problem, not a revenue problem, at a lot of places,” Schulz, now president of Washington State, told the paper. He followed it up with another overworked maxim: “You can’t say that keeping up with the Joneses is not part of college athletics.”

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, has regularly deployed the line over the last decade while arguing that there was plenty of money in intercollegiate athletics to compensate players to pay for their healthcare.

“Division I college sports does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem,” Huma told the Washington Post in October 2021. “They gold-plate coaches’ salaries; they gold-plate facilities and recruiting budgets.”

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