Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Wretched excess

September 5, 2007


To the editor:

The front-page panoramic photo of construction of the new football complex was a telling commentary on the power of money. Supine, the university allowed the bulldozing of the campus' most historic and beautiful site in the name of sports revenue. It is of a piece with the decision to move the Kansas-Missouri game, probably in perpetuity, to Kansas City.

This multimillion dollar monument to the Big 12 athletic arms race may well have diverted donor contributions from academic programs. It will further isolate KU athlete students from the rest of the student body. Meantime, the first four games of the season are against no-name teams, allowing KU football to get a jump toward winning six games and becoming eligible for a second-rate bowl invitation.

All of this wretched excess is justified on the grounds that everyone else is doing it, too. As a Kansas University alum, I find myself feeling a sense of shame and alienation from a university once dear to my heart.

William Dickinson,



oldvet 10 years, 7 months ago

Take THE BEST professor at KU and tell us how much money he/she brings into KU, and then how many student scholarships are funded by that money every year. Yes, academics are important and probably the lasting thing we recieve from KU, but athletics provide the opportunities for a heck of a lot more kids to attend a first rate college. Take them away from KU and you too can be a 3000-student Division-3 or NAIA college. And never be so bold to assume that the donations would continue to come in anyway...

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

Fire Lew Perkins for making such crummy decisions. This decision not only affects KU, KU spirit on campus but KU spirit throughout the city in the way of revenue for motels,hotels,cafes and other retail operations. Instead Lew Perkins decides the revenue base of KCMO is far more important.

And what about those academic students who pay for student tickets yet may not have transportation...thanks Lew Perkins. If it were not for the thousands of academic students who spend lots of money to attend KU, keep up a decent GPA thus protecting a KU reputation there would be no need for any stadium or team.

Lawrence taxpayers pay out plenty for city operations to be part of the team that makes Lawrence attractive for KU students. So Lew Perkins its' a team effort that breeds success and your decision says that you do not give a damn....Lawrence,Kansas can live without your ego.

Bring the games HOME to Lawrence,Kansas where the school is located as it should be. Lawrence supports its' basketball and football teams win or lose so bring them back home. Let the city of Lawrence get back some of the revenue it lays out in street and water line repairs.

KU and Lawrence taxpayers are a team Lew Perkins so allow us to scratch each others back instead of sending important revenue to KCMO. One more time. While athletics may seem more important there are way more students here for academic purposes paying good money to fill up the stadiums and the basketball arena...why make them drive to KCMO or maybe miss the most important games of the season due to lack of transportation.

Bad decisions Lew Perkins, bad decisions. I believe that is the consensus of the community where KU is located.

moveforward 10 years, 7 months ago

Oldvet - wow, the courage to think that... much less say it outloud.

So what, a thousand scholarships in any given year, out of a 22,000 plus student body?

How much of the money donated towards KU Athletics goes towards education progarms (beyond the football team)? Look up how those donation compare to those to the university over time. I think you greatly over estimate the financing power of athletics. I also can't see a 90% reduction in students bacause of athletics... much less football. Alumni maybe, but not the student body.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 7 months ago

The suites for the football stadium were they constructed so some would not mingle with the with the low life fans?

With that money the donors could have quietly placed themselves at the fee paying window picking up the tab for the first thousand not so financially well off students for a few years.

craigers 10 years, 7 months ago

If you think that KU wouldn't be hurt drastically without athletics then you are nuts. Yes getting a good quality education is important but high school graduates want to go somewhere that is fun and social. The success in athletics brings more students in than you think. They want to see the games, see their team succeed, etc. Why do you think we can get so many great basketball players? I will tell you it isn't because they want to be a part of getting a quality education, they want to go to a school that continually is seen as a powerhouse. Do I think that KU would die out without athletics, no. Because there are still folks that care about the quality of the school more than the social aspect. However, not having successful sports programs would severly hurt KU in my opinion.

grimpeur 10 years, 7 months ago

A good professor can bring in $250K-$1M per year or more in grants.

That's a whole football team or more of student scholarships and housing. That's more than the football team brings in per capita, after you take out money for coaches' salaries, air travel, luxury training facilities construction, helmets and pads, stadium maintenance, advertising, slush funds, recruiting trips.

KUAC supports KUAC, not KU. There's a reason it's a separate corporation. Does KUAC pay rent to KU for AFH or the stadium? Licensing fees for use of the Jayhawk? KU is foolish not to make more money off of KUAC. In other sad college finance news:

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 7 months ago

Lew was hired to bring money to the athletic program and he's doing an outstanding job. Any "fan" who feels ashamed and alienated as a result wasn't much of a fan to begin with.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years, 7 months ago

If KU, or any other academic institution, can't survive without the big two money fundic sports, then it should die.

imastinker 10 years, 7 months ago

I have heard that many big 12 schools require that all athletic gifts be matched with a gift to academics. Why not do that here?

It appears that I will not be the only alumni that WILL NOT be giving money to my alma mater without major changes happening.

storm 10 years, 7 months ago

Thank you Mr Dickinson, you speak for many an alum.

Confrontation 10 years, 7 months ago

Apparently, some people believe that high school graduates would prefer going to a college that is boring and anti-social. Feel free to enroll at K-State.

Haiku_Cuckoo 10 years, 7 months ago

Expressing displeasure that KU's biggest rivalry (home) game must now be played on neutral ground-in missouri, the state of the rival-makes us bad fans.

You must be from Misery. Get lost.

I live in Lawrence. Unless Missouri's campus is now located at Arrowhead Stadium I don't see how this venue provides any advantage to them.

FatTony 10 years, 7 months ago

Hey Willie, how much have you donated to academic scholarship this year?

Linda Aikins 10 years, 7 months ago

Maybe I don't understand, but doesn't money that is given to the Williams Fund go to general university education? I don't believe that money stays in Athletics. And it is a SIGNIFICANT amount.

daddax98 10 years, 7 months ago

"A good professor can bring in $250K-$1M per year or more in grants" and what are those grants used for? They certainly do not go to the students. more likely then not that money is used for the professor to do research usually while on sabbatical (sp?) which deprives the university of the benifits of having the professor in the first place. And I challange you to find even ONE professor at KU that receives $250K let alone $1M YEARLY in grants (which is something totally different then donations)

atavism 10 years, 7 months ago

The Washington Post a few years ago reported that very few Div I athletic programs operate in the black (my apologies for not having the reference in front of me from which to cite). As I recall, even Kansas basketball fails to turn a profit each year and relies heavily on outside support.

On the other hand, most academics, at least in the sciences, routinely bring in hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in grant monies each year that usually goes towards funding graduate students and covers the costs of equipment and research expenses. Indeed this is a heavy factor in whether a faculty member receives tenure or not. Rarely can grants be touched for funding sabbaticals or buying out teaching, unless there are specific terms in the contracts that allow for that, which is increasingly difficult. Most sabbaticals are paid for through awards/fellowships at other institutions where faculty members become 'guest' or 'visiting researchers/lecturers.' Grant money sometimes provides summer salaries, but even this is becoming rare. Universities themselves take between 40 and 75 percent off the top of a grant (my institution takes 60) as 'overhead' to cover the costs of utilities, building maintenance, capital equipment etc. Often this money ends up in a general education fund if it's not spent specifically as 'overhead.' For the skeptics who believe that academics do not bring in money, check KU's renown Center for Biodiversity Research, Department of Geography and Atmospheric Science, Geology and Compute Science, each of which have brought in millions over the recent years. Humanities and Social Sciences generally win less total money, but even more award (here, the cost of doing social science/humanities from a research perspective is usually not as expensive--as a gross generalisation of course).

paavopetie 10 years, 7 months ago

First, I helped design part of the new football building, and I was told that the hill overlooking the stadium will return. The new building is not on it, but adjacent to it. They just need the hill for construction purposes.

Second, it is my understanding that the money that athletics brings in (with ticket sales, television distribution deals, etc) all stays within athletics to pay for equipment, athletic scholarships, etc. The university sees none of that money for "free".

But, that's not to say that the athletic programs don't help out at all. It's a cause and effect type of thing, that can't really be quantified. But KU, because of it's nationally-ranked basketball team, brings in more students. How many? No one knows. I'm sure a lot of people go to K-State partly because they like the football team. The football and basketball games aren't the only reason people choose, but it does play some part in the college decision.

oldvet 10 years, 7 months ago

"A good professor can bring in $250K-$1M per year or more in grants."

You are correct... and I used to work at KU doing the accounting for those research grants, filling out the paperwork that was sent to the feds to account for where the money was spent. What I usually saw in a grant was a salary for the professor (funded by the grant, over and above his/her KU salary), another 1 or 2 people quarter or half time, who frequently had the same last name of some other professor who had his/her own grant, (usually a spouse or child or other relative of that other professor, because the grant rules would not let you hire your own) and maybe one or two others doing some minimal part-time work. The balance would be for facility upgrades, equipment, supplies, travel, etc., based on the actual grant application and funding allowed. Those great professors do NOT provide much in the way of scholarships for the general student body.

KUAI, on the other hand, provides the scholarship money for all student-athletes, including all of those Title-9 sports that never make a dime but make football and basketball possible.

As for the status of KU if all sports were dropped... please tell me the names of the major universities without sports... it's a serious question because I don't know. I do know, however, that those without scholarship sports are Division-3 and they are all pretty small...

If you don't want to contribute to the Williams Fund, then don't... it is as simple as that... as for me, I enjoy the sports, so my contribution goes there... and I check the box marked "for scholarship purposes only"

grimpeur 10 years, 7 months ago

daddax, it is no challenge to find even a junior KU researcher who brings in a quarter million or more a year. Indeed, the average NIH RO1 grant (the mechanism which typically and most commonly funds university research labs) is almost $300K.

Oldvet, you fail to mention the "indirects" provided to the general academic mission of departments, upward of an additional 40% of the grant totals. And so you are precisely incorrect, a curious position for someone who claims to be in the know: the monies awarded to researchers do indeed benefit the general student body as well as the departments in which they study.

As for your exceptional examples, it is more common for BOTH spouses--as independent researchers and not one another's employers/employees--to be awarded individual grants than for a spouse to be included on one grant. Why, then, do you imply otherwise with your use of "usually" and "frequently" to describe what are, in fact, very much the exceptions? Furthermore, PI's grants make achievement possible for those who may be academically gifted but poor jump shooters or slow runners. See atavism's post. To compare the missions of the athletic depart--I mean, KUAI (which, like other sports corporations, had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Title 9 table) to that of any academic department is comedic.

I don't begrudge KUAI's basketball team or the scholarships KUAI does provide--no doubt they are numerous. I lament the lost opportunities and potential wasted on big-time college athletic spending, all down to a convenient divorce of finance but not of branding. In my view, when the per-capita expenditure for special-ed graduate students (scholarships, housing, equipment, coaches/teachers/mentors, facilities, travel and all) meets or exceeds that for football players, a balance will have been reached. And I don't see it on the horizon.

erod0723 10 years, 7 months ago

Like it or not, Sports are what defines KU. When you tell somebody that you go to KU, they instantly think of KU basketball. Lew is trying to capitalize on that marketing by making the football team good. Do I like the new football offices or some of the practices that Lew has instituted? No, but at the end of the day Lew is doign exactly what he was brought in to do: bring money to the athletic program and raise the University's profile throughout the country. The more our school is on national television, the better as it exposes KU to more and more people.

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