Interuniversity athletics: the university financial pit
UC Riverside Tackles Big Problem In Intercollegiate Sport: How To Pay For It
Higher education holds the attention of progressives for a variety of reasons. Money problems – college costs and debt – are twofold. And while today’s topic is college costs as well, it’s not a topic that gets much public attention.
This is the cost of intercollegiate athletics at large public sports universities – particularly a dimension of public costs – subsidies for intercollegiate athletics in the form of university fund transfers to athletics and athletics fees students. According to USA today, the total amount nationwide was around $ 3 billion in 2019 (pre-COVID) at America’s 277 major public sports universities (Division 1).
These schools fall into two categories. Large sports universities, which total about 60 schools across the country (e.g. Ohio State, Alabama), generate a lot of revenue from sources such as ticket sales, media rights, merchandising arrangements, stipends. conferences and major donors. These schools do not need grants or limited grants to balance athletic books.
In California, for example, UCLA said it spent more than $ 127 million on intercollegiate athletics in 2019, and only about 2% of that amount (about $ 2.6 million) was funded. Cal-Berkley spent a little less than the Bruins overall ($ 107 million) and, thanks to a series of budget transfers, the grant amount was zero.
But it’s an entirely different story at more than 200 major US public sports schools.
These programs need significant financial assistance to make ends meet. The eight Californian members of the Big West Conference are a case in point. In 2019, the total grants for these Golden State public schools were $ 158 million.
In Cal-Northridge, for example, grants accounted for 85% of the $ 19 million in sports revenues. It was 80% to Fullerton’s $ 20 million. And then there’s UC Riverside. The Highlanders ranked No.1 nationally in terms of the percentage of sports income from grants – a whopping 91% of $ 23 million.
The Big West is not alone. Two Western Athletic Conference schools are on the top ten grant list (combined grant allocations, $ 38 million). And the state of Sacramento – another of the top ten schools (playing at the Big Sky Conference) – had $ 27 million in grants.
What are we doing to remedy this fiscal imbalance? Even though it is a national problem – pervasive and deep – this answer is… (drumbeat)… it is not a collective priority. And that conclusion makes what is happening at UC Riverside particularly compelling. Officials take the bull by the horns to fix their broken athletic budget.
The UCR is located in the “Inland Empire” area of southern California (Riverside and San Bernardino counties), east of Los Angeles. A research institution with a diverse student body, US News and World Report the class among the top 100 national universities.
But there are funding issues, something Teresa Watanabe described well in her recent article published in the LA Times. Among other things, Watanabe describes the impact on UCR’s facilities and student services.
In this fiscal environment affected by COVID, there is significant pressure on higher education to prioritize and decide where to allocate resources. This includes figuring out where intercollegiate athletics fits into the scheme of things.
And to face the athletic side, many schools are reducing their sports portfolios by dropping teams. Stanford has cut 11 of its sports teams, including men’s gymnastics and women’s field hockey. Hartford University has announced it will move from playing major sports to competing in the lowest division of the NCAA, Division III (for local reference, Occidental College is a Division III college).
Last year, a UCR budget committee proposed an even bolder step.eliminate athletics ”And replace it with“ a more robust intramural program ”. The report’s recommendations have not been kindly received by some on campus and beyond, and current Chancellor Kim Wilcox has created a “Athletics Working GroupLast fall “to conduct an external review of UCR Athletics as well as to assess the challenges and opportunities it offered. “
The AWG report, released last week, offers an alternative. The AWG recommended that “UCR Athletics and all 17 sports within it continue to compete at the Division I level within the Big West Conference.” By accepting the recommendations of the AWG, Chancellor Wilcox said:
“From now on, Intercollegiate Athletics will implement a three-year financial and operational plan to achieve substantial permanent budget cuts, increase externally generated revenue and move towards financial stability.
Riverside wants to fix the problem and has used deliberation along with consensus building to come up with a plan. Well done!
And while I’m handing out bouquets, let me throw one at the Slugs. In 2016, over 60% of undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz voted for assume a 180% increase in their tuition fees keep intercollegiate athletics in school. It was their choice – taxation with representation – and they took it.
We have leadership seed in Riverside and Santa Cruz. Commitment! Alternatives to the presence of executives in closed meetings to decide the future of others. Progressive, indeed.
You can listen to this essay on my podcast channel, Under the radar with host Frank Fear.