UC Spending on “Athletics Arms Race” Is Irresponsible

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

This is an op-ed written by Ron Jones and John McNay and published on the August 13, 2016 on the Cincinnati Enquirer website [http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2016/08/13/uc-spending-athletic-arms-race-irresponsible/88584650/].

Ron Jones is a librarian in the University of Cincinnati College of Law and president of the UC chapter of the American Association of University Professors. John McNay is a history professor at UC Blue Ash College and president of the Ohio Conference, AAUP.

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“Athletics can be a fun part of the college experience for students. The faculty enjoy watching sporting events and supporting student athletes as much as anyone, but at some point you have to ask at what cost?

“After factoring in ticket sales, sponsorships, advertising and all other sources of revenue, UC’s athletic program loses more than $20 million per year. This $20 million deficit is covered by taking $20 million from the academic side of UC. This money–generated from tuition, student fees and other sources–is diverted from every college and program that make up the University of Cincinnati.

“According to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics’ report “Restoring the Balance,” UC’s expenditure per student declined by 32 percent from 2005 to 2012. Over the same period, its spending on athletics increased by 76 percent. Those trends have continued. Today, the university subsidizes nearly half of the athletic program’s budget.

“The sea of athletic department red ink costs each UC student over $500 a year and about $2,000 over the four years it takes to complete an undergraduate degree. Further, UC athletic department’s total debt is $139 million.

“That kind of spending on an athletics arms race is irresponsible. It deprives the students, the faculty, the city and the state of Ohio of resources that could truly bolster the academic mission of the university. All one has to do is to walk around the gleaming athletic structures that occupy such a high percentage of the campus to understand how the priorities of the university have been turned upside down.

“No academic department at the university could run so deeply in the red as athletics has been allowed to do. Every few years, a new university administration promises that some new gimmick will help turn the financial picture around – and it always requires the upfront investment of a huge amount of money. The $85 million renovation of the football stadium and then the expansion of that football stadium, for example.

“The argument now is that joining the Big 12 will bring in enough money to close the expanding shortfall in revenue in UC athletics. But joining the Big 12 will certainly mean even more spending on coaches, buildings, players, travel and equipment. In any case, the money already invested in UC’s sports programs will never be recovered.

“Meanwhile, spending on athletics is not slowing down. We see the university’s renovation plan for Fifth Third Arena is more than $85 million, and in April the university extended the football and basketball head coaches’ contracts in excess of $4 million.

“Faculty want the best for our student athletes and want them to be successful. Yet less than 15 percent of the athletic department budget goes to students. We also know that, like any student, athletes are more likely to be successful based on the education they receive, not their athletic participation. When UC doubles and triples down on athletics, it takes money away from students as a whole.

“Sports are valuable additions to college and community life. But big-business sports have shown themselves to be losing bets for most universities, and the burden of these bad choices falls most heavily on our students. If the Big 12 invitation comes to UC, there is little likelihood that any resulting revenue will be invested in the academic mission of the university in a meaningful way. In the end, we can only hope for a break-even proposition. Almost any other spending would be a better bet: better pay for staff and faculty, which is woefully behind peer institutions; more direct investment in student support and scholarships; reducing the exploitation of adjuncts; or even a reduction in tuition to make college more affordable and accessible.

“Those kinds of investments would put our students ahead of the game. But like a loser at the tables, the university keeps doubling down, swearing that it will quit when it gets back to even.”

 

 

5 thoughts on “UC Spending on “Athletics Arms Race” Is Irresponsible

  1. Thanks for the wonderful details that really paint a clear picture. I noticed a typical “Freudian slip,” though, revealing how in higher ed so many full-time faculty separate themselves mentally (and financially) from the adjunct faculty who are holding up the whole system. When the authors discussed what could be done with the money instead of football stadiums, they gave four suggestions. First was “better pay for staff and faculty, which is woefully behind peer institutions” and a separate item, number four, was “reducing the exploitation of adjuncts.” Just a reminder: adjunct faculty are faculty, and their pay is woefully behind that of other faculty.

  2. This is a great insight on the imbalance found at the University of Cincinnati. Although athletics does provide revenue at big schools, if it is not working at UC they should reconsider strategies. UC is now talking about joining the Big 12 conference which could go either ways.

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