Too bad Red Ink Cam is not atop the spinning heads of college athletic department accountants.

What reality show potential!

We would see precisely how much it costs to feed a hungry volleyball team on tour two time zones away.

The exact sticker price for educating Billy Bob, the fifth-year, third-string, "Four-Star" left guard from Six Mile.

Caution: Rated R for inappropriate language spewing at the sight of Atlanta hotel bills.

Of course, there always is the potential for bean counter-on-bean counter crime when budget estimates clash with assistant coach salaries gone wild.

Then the dashing sports columnist (looking better in HD) strolls onto the big screen picture with solutions.

Such as:

--Major college athletic departments struggling in a shaky economy could save big bucks, now and later, by reducing the number of football scholarships per program from 85 to 75.

--Non-revenue sports teams should chip in, too, by staying closer to home with the formation of new, more geographically-friendly conferences.

Swimming sinks

If only someone had thought of this stuff earlier.

Maybe Clemson would not have announced, as school officials did last week, that its men's and women's swimming programs and men's diving program are about to go the way of Charleston street cars.

It's turbulent out there.

More than half the Football Bowl Subdivision (that is, major conference) athletic departments at public schools were subsidized in 2009 by at least 26 percent from such money pools as student fees or university general funds, The USA Today reported last month.

"Subsidy" is a dirty little word about to get very controversial around your favorite campus.

But the only loud complaints are coming from professorial pragmatists pleading "fiscal sanity" and students themselves, with not enough whining from the fan base in between.

It seems too obvious to point out the NCAA's own figures. For 2006, it revealed only 19 of 119 FBS schools had positive net revenue.

By the way, I checked. The American economy hasn't zipped into happy days since 2006.

A new $700,000 contract for South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson and the new $2.3 million bill for annual payment to Dabo Swinney's Clemson coaching staff is OK, in theory, because the Southeastern Conference is early into its $2.25 billion, 15-year football deal with ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference surely will benefit somehow.

Right?

Maybe.

But that Clemson expects to avoid a 2009-10 deficit almost only because former head basketball coach Oliver Purnell bolted for DePaul is pretty darn sobering. This is a "big-time" football school with ACC basketball benefits and loyal baseball support.

No wonder Purnell's replacement was the brown bag Brad Brownell decision.

75 will do

College football teams do not need 85 scholarship players. A good 75 plus walk-ons will do. Somehow, the NFL, more physical and with a longer season, gets by with a 53-man roster. And no walk-ons.

Non-revenue sports -- which arguably includes all sports but for now let's just say everything but football and men's basketball -- should compete in newly created conferences closer to home.

For instance, the fun and economical Carolinas/Georgia/Insert Better Title League: North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia and Georgia Tech.

See, that way, the Clemson baseball team doesn't have to travel to Boston and the South Carolina women's basketball team doesn't have to leak cash traveling to Mississippi State.

Les Robinson is a retired former athletic director at East Tennessee State, N.C. State and The Citadel.

He isn't too crazy about my football scholarships idea.

"A small dent, frankly, in the overall financial picture," Robinson said.

But he likes my travel restrictions.

"They may eventually have to look at that, two divisions and regional play or something," Robinson said. "Travel needs to be cut. When we talked about mid-major expansion, the thing I always said to look at was 'location, location, location.' Travel cost is just so much and, over time, your fan support is so much greater when you are playing closer to home."

Right now, college sports budgets have strayed a long way.

If only Red Ink Cam was around to show us the carnage in real time.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.