Archive for Saturday, January 2, 2010

College athletics financing needs ‘serious, sensible reform’

January 2, 2010


A headline last month read, “College football needs fiscal reform,” and the story reported the concerns of William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the university system of Maryland, and R. Gerald Turner, president of Southern Methodist University.

These two educators and university administrators chaired the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an organization that in recent years has been taking a close look at the runaway spending on athletics by most NCAA Division I schools.

The commission is collaborating with leaders in higher education, as well as athletic directors, to develop a reform agenda that will address what they consider unsustainable growth in major college sports expenditures.

Their findings show “all who care about the role of intercollegiate athletics within the academic enterprise should agree that both data and common sense point to the need for immediate reform.

“Neither enhanced media contracts nor a football playoff can solve the systemic financial problems facing athletic programs. Serious, sensible fiscal reform will.”

Another headline within days of the Knight Commission report stated, “KU Gridiron Club plans on track.” The story told of Kansas University athletic department officials, surely with the approval of KU’s chancellor, to push ahead on efforts to raise $30 million in the next month or two so they can build a plush, 3,000-seat private eating and drinking facility atop the east side of Memorial Stadium.

During the past few months, numerous stories have been told of the damaging effects at KU caused by cuts in state funding for higher education. Those effects include likely termination of faculty members, cuts in classes, larger class sizes, increased fees for KU student housing and meals, further maintenance delays and many other cuts or reductions.

And yet, it’s full speed ahead on the Gridiron Club. University officials make it clear all of this is to be paid by private money, not state funds, as if it is OK and proper to spend private dollars in this way even when state officials find it necessary to cut back on state tax dollars coming to the university for academic purposes.

The reduction in state revenue is due to the economy. Kansas taxpayers are facing tough times with businesses and individuals making less and therefore not paying as much in taxes to the state.

Maybe part of the deal in attracting KU’s new football coach was to promise the new Gridiron Club to keep up with the Joneses. It’s quite likely other costly goodies were promised to the new coach along with many hefty salaries for the coach’s assistants — far outpacing what longtime, outstanding KU faculty members are paid.

The Knight Commission acknowledges, “change cannot come from the decree of one or two courageous university presidents,” adding that, based on a recent Knight Commission survey, “fewer than a quarter of FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision schools that now number 120 major universities) presidents interviewed … believe that big-time intercollegiate athletics are sustainable in their current form nationally.”

Kirwan and Turner said presidents and chancellors have limited power to make major substantive changes acting alone.

If that’s the case, who can? Currently there is growing support in Congress to eliminate tax deductibility for contributions to university athletic programs made through university endowment associations.

The Knight Commission leaders said, “We recognize that change can come only from collaborative actions, some of which may prove unpopular in some campuses. The first step will need to be true transparency regarding athletic spending.”

This raises questions relative to the massive spending by KU athletics: Where is the money coming from? How much is coming from the KU Endowment Association and what is the debt load of the KU athletic department? There isn’t much transparency from athletic department officials who only provide information when they are forced to do so through the Freedom of Information Act.

Money calls the shots at the KU athletic department, as it does at most other major universities, now called FBS schools. Apparently, chancellors like KU’s Bernadette Gray-Little can do little about it because whenever athletics people want to keep up with the Joneses in recruiting and attracting coaches, they are given the green light.

What must those in the academic side of the university, those in the Kansas Legislature, parents of students and others concerned about the quality of a university education think about the critical need for a $34 million lounge for those who want to watch a KU football game in comfort with food and drink?

Where are the priorities at KU?

• • •

The recent exits of KU football coach Mark Mangino and Texas Tech’s Mike Leach raise questions about timing and motivation. Was Mangino pushed out and Leach fired primarily because their athletic directors had a personal dislike of their coaches and were looking for a specific incident to justify getting rid of them? Perhaps these incidents will prompt football coaches to seek more protection in their lucrative contracts.


Rich Noever 8 years, 4 months ago

The abuses are adding up. Those yokels who sit at the south end of the stadium in their lounge chairs are an embarrasement. After each touchdown or fumble they should stand up and give the thumbs up or down signs like the Romans. Speaking of abuses, how about Mr. Obama taking his two AirForce ones and staff to Hawaii for the holidays. Lead by example my arse!

freighttrain221 8 years, 4 months ago

How many times does it need to be stated: KU athletics and KU academics are separate entities. It's not like the football team is pilfering money from the science department. The money that the athletic department is spending is money that it raised on its own. Get a clue!

Jim Williamson 8 years, 4 months ago

Someone's still mad their basketball seats got moved.

Rich Noever 8 years, 4 months ago

I am not bitching because I know that the money comes from donations to KUAC. I don't have BB tickets, I watch it at home until Perky puts it on pay for view. I am saying it just doesn't look right. Excesses of the rich. Why not sell them crowns to wear?

cowboy 8 years, 4 months ago

What is Dolph's major issue with KU , the negative tone of articles is quite obvious ?

JustNoticed 8 years, 4 months ago

Freighttrain221, try reading more carefully. It's understood that they are separate entities. What you don't understand is that there is a problem. A systemic problem, a tax incentive problem, a priorities problem, an enrich the rich and impoverish the poor problem.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

The Gridiron Club? What does that represent? More high dollar spending.

The more seats that are built the more empty the stadium will appear.

The money spent on athletics could likely fund full academic scholarships for several hundred students each school year. What a concept.

repaste 8 years, 4 months ago

When Dolph goes political, he spouts Rush or Tommy'isms. On this he is dead on. Freighter, They are seperate like a Enron balance sheet. The money is same and it comes out of what otherwise would be our tax dollars. Just as the new Oread raises my Taxes through their exemptions, athletic donations raise my taxes through their Tax exempt status.

WilburM 8 years, 4 months ago

Repaste has it right. Dolph does rant, and often it's just long-winded garbage. But in this instance, he does keep identifying a major problem at a University like KU. Sure athletics is a different entity, but in the end financial support for athletics has perverted incentives -- as in contributions are tax exempt. If Lew and KU athletics want to run a couple pro sports franchises, so be it (it's the way of the world). But why should any contributions be tax write-offs? Is KU Athletics, which protects its "brand" (and money-making capacity) at all costs, a charitable entity? Hardly. If and when the $40 Million promised to KU academics comes through, maybe there could be a possible (if convoluted) justification for tax-exempt status. But right now it's tax exempt contributions for coaching buyouts and astounding salaries, and facilities that no ordinary KU student is ever likely to see.

In the end, the athletics/academic combo is a huge (and uniquely American) contradiction -- at KU and in all major college athletics -- and most programs come out losers, thus draining funds from academics.

Bashing Dolph for pointing out the obvious is scarcely productive.

freighttrain221 8 years, 4 months ago

Neighbor 1: Hey neighbor, when did you get that new car?

Neighbor 2: I bought it last week.

Neighbor 1: Why do you get to drive a new car while I have to drive one that's several years old?

Neighbor 2: Because it's money that I've earned and I'm free to spend it as I see fit.

Neighbor 1: It isn't fair! You should use some of your money to buy things for me!

Neighbor 2: Why don't you try a little harder and earn some more money on your own?

Neighbor 1: Nevermind that! Your spending is out of control!

Neighbor 2: No, actually my finances are covered.

Neighbor 1: I insist that you support me and my family with your money! We live on the same street, so that money should be ours to share.

Neighbor 2: Sharing the same street name doesn't mean that our finances are combined.

Neighbor 1: But you get tax breaks!

Neighbor 2: So do you.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 4 months ago

KUAC and KU are separate entities, but what does this mean exactly?

Who paid to clear the snow from KU student parking lots for Tuesday's game, when there were no classes and no need for student lots to be cleared?

How much money in donations goes to KUAC that might otherwise be donated to the academic mission of KU?

KUAC is a separate entity, and they are very successful. The question is, how much does their success take away from KU, and how much of their success is due to their association with KU?

It might be time to honestly and objectively re-evealuate this relationship.

It is very possible that such an honest evaluation might show that KUAC is on the whole contributing to KU, or it might not.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 4 months ago


Your analogy might be apt as long as there is no relationship between the fortunes of the two car owners.

KU and KUAC are intertwined in a morass of relationships that make it nearly impossible to determine them.

Maybe it is time to try to follow them.

mom_of_three 8 years, 4 months ago

I understand the editorial and it does make sense. But the question to ask is why people will donate to athletics, when the actual University is in a budget crunch and could use donations to help student scholarships, upkeep, etc. Why do people choose athletics over scholarship? It is their money to do with as they choose, but you have to wonder why.

grimpeur 8 years, 4 months ago

It's not who donates or where, it's the relationship and the tax status, and the question among others: if Kansas Athletics, Inc., is part of KU, and not the other way around, why is KAI, Inc. (the football company) spending insanely on a losing football team while KU (the university) is in a budget crunch, especially when the football program's job placement rate is under 1%.

If KAI Football is on its own (and it's been carefully arranged that KAI Football controls the money, not KU, the presumed parent company), then let it be on its own. Why does it need KU?

Oh, yeah, because nobody would care if the team weren't the "Kansas Jayhawks," and therefore gate receipts and donations would be zero. If KU (the university) can't leverage this simple fact, get its "athletic department" under control and make money off its (allegedly) own football team, then it's necessary to reexamine the financial arrangements of the relationship between the University of Kansas and the separate sports corporation which is using the name Kansas Athletics, Inc.

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 4 months ago

Compared to Texas and Oklahoma State, our spending budget looks like peanuts.

I guess if T. Boone Pickens gave $165 million to our athletics department Dolph would get upset about it.

I think he is firing at the wrong target.

Maybe we need to work harder to get people to donate to our academic programs...while they are drinking and dining in the new Grid Iron Club.

Why be a downer all the time?

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 4 months ago

"Is that about right?"

No, solomon. Please try to read the posts again in an attempt to understand what is being said, instead of knee-jerking into your intemperant preconclusion.

Donors are free to spend their money as they see fit. It doesn't mean they can't be criticized for it.

To say that KUAC is a completely separate entity is ridiculous because of the close relationships between KUAC and KU. Indeed, KUAC was established to circumvent restrictions on the use of KU money (state money).

The relationships remain, however. From the use of KU property to the use of the KU Jayhawk brand, KUAC benefits greatly from its association with KU. KU also benefits from KUAC. The exact proportions are unclear, however.

Maybe it is time to reanalyze this relationship.

james bush 8 years, 4 months ago

Dolph just not understand how important college athletics and "student athetes" are to our system of higher learning.

james bush 8 years, 4 months ago

Errata: Dolph just does not understand how important college athletics and “student athletes” are to our system of higher learning.

anon1958 8 years, 4 months ago

The KUAC is heavily subsidized by taxpayers that are too stupid to figure it out. The taxpayers own the football stadium and the fieldhouse. Until KUAC begins to pay a fair market value for renting the space to the general revenue fund of Kansas, this is the equivalent of a huge subsidy paid by taxpayers.

How many years has the maintenance budget for these facilities been buried in the KU budget requests?

Dolph! get off your butt and find out for us. Lets just stop this nonsense that KUAC is somehow a solvent entity operating in the black. That myth needs to die.

Bob_Keeshan 8 years, 4 months ago

The only solution that presents itself would be to limit contribution to KU Athletics.

Now, does that mean all the money that is now being contributed to KU Athletics would be contributed instead to KU Endowment?

Of course not.

The question "this writer" is too afraid to ask is simple - does increased giving to KU Athletics also lead to increased support for the University as a whole?

Or to use "this writer's" more preferred negative approach, if you decrease giving to KU Athletics will you also decrease support for the University as a whole?

What Mr. Simons has decided to remain willfully ignorant to is that support for KU Athletics correlates to support for the University and its students. Place arbitrary limits on the amount of support available to KU Athletics and you will find support for the University and its students declines in kind.

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