Nov 262006
 
Authors: Ryan Speaker, Luci StorelliCastro

Institutions of higher education should be centers of intellectual growth with budgets that support such a purpose. Increasingly, however, college culture has been defined by a pampering of the athletic wing, with football programs reaping much of the advantage in funds and attention from administrators and the general public.

While we do not deny that there are benefits to supporting sports programs because they provide students with extracurricular activities, may attract national attention, encourage alumni to pony cash and increase school spirit, we are bothered by the willingness of colleges to fund athletics at the expense of academically-oriented activities and services.

CSU is not exempt from investing heavily in its football program when other more salient issues beg attention, such as overcrowded classrooms, low adjunct incomes and a lack of technology in classrooms, among others. We want to inform you about the darker side of football, namely how it’s being financed. Maybe then you will be as inclined as we are to demand change in how our university puts an emphasis on athletics over academics.

Attacking football is not an easy task. In the annual budget reports, and even in estimate proposals, one will find that football falls under that all-encompassing title of “Athletics.” Even in meetings of the Board of Governors, football is rarely addressed specifically, although it is obvious that the program is the subject under deliberation.

At a retreat this September with board members, CSU’s Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk said “CSU’s vision is to become a first-class Division I program that…operates from a solid financial foundation.” One must question the idea that the Athletic Department is not sitting on a solid foundation already.

For the 2005-2006 school year, the Athletic Department had an operating budget of $15.98 million. This, however, was deemed insufficient for such an important department. Last year, ASCSU approved an annual inflation increase of $2.06 in student fees targeted specifically for athletics. Unimpressed, President Penley came before the council and threatened that if athletics was not granted an extra $2 million, he would simply pluck that money from the general fund. The result: $73 of your student fees this year are going specifically to athletics, versus $53 from last year. No other university department receives such funding.

By privileging the Athletic Department over others, one cannot help but agree with B. David Ridpath, director of judicial programs at Marshall University, that “(the) message we are sending is that we accept a watered-down educational institution at the expense of having an essentially professionalized college sports.”

The Athletic Department’s budget has increased almost 62 percent since the 2001-2002 academic year, despite inflation rates having remained relatively the same. Further raises for the budget are already in action. As part of a so-called “quality initiative” by Keith Ickes, vice president for Administrative Services, the Athletic Department will receive a $400,000 budget increase in 2008. A 10 percent increase in earmarked funds and a 13 percent budget increase in the last year sounds like a rather solid foundation to us.

There are still those who will argue that athletic programs bring in revenue for universities. However, a USA Today report found that only 40 colleges claim to have self-sufficient athletic departments. To avoid deficits, universities are having to use funds that would have otherwise been allotted to academics. Also, 60 percent of all Division I schools rely on student fees ranging from $50 to $1,000 to finance athletics.

A review of what universities spend on athletics is not complete without an inside look into coaching salaries. Consider football coach Sonny Lubick’s annual salary of $500,000, which he is currently renegotiating in order to bank $600,000 per year. While astounding, Lubick’s price tag is comparatively lower than his colleagues’ – 42 of 119 Division I coaches are earning $1 million or more, up from five coaches in 1999. Lubick’s salary accounts for about 10 full-time professor salaries.

Our university’s official line appears to be that it pays to be an athlete rather than an intellectual.

Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior philosophy and political science double major. Her column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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