Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Transparency in the Cost of Intercollegiate Athletics

By Robert Villwock

The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, an alliance of 55 Division IA faculty senates whose mission is to provide a national faculty voice on intercollegiate sports issues, commented that the Athletic Departments' Budgets should be more transparent and more aligned with the mission, goals, and values of the institution. The organization also outlined four other recommendations in regards to fiscal responsibility of University Athletic Departments.

After spending a considerable amount of time on the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, a Department of Education sponsored website that is supposed to provide transparency of costs in intercollegiate athletics, I agree with the COIA.

Each institution's revenues and expenses for athletics can be found on the website, put in an aggregated lump sum amount. Out of 118 schools analyzed, 44 schools had revenues equal expenses while the rest of them showed having revenues in excess of expenses. Not one university reported having expenses greater than revenues.

The University of Houston apparently made $1 in excess of expenses last year, according to the site.

It would appear to me that the figures reported are more along the lines of the budget of each school instead of the true revenues and expenses for each school.

Does this data include the upkeep of facilities? Does it include the price of scholarships? Do the revenues include the TV rights that schools receive for football and basketball? I would say probably not (The site does not get specific about where the revenues and expenses come from) and I fear that many of the costs are not realized by enough people in the higher ed community.

Also, if every institution in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (118 schools) had revenues at least as high as expenses then why are sports being cut at many schools across the country?

I wonder what the actual costs are in intercollegiate athletics, costs like upkeep of a 100,000 seat football stadium or a 25,000 seat basketball arena. It would be nice to know since our tax dollars go to public universities who fund these facilities.

Until more transparent revenues and expenses are disclosed by public institutions regarding athletics, it will be a difficult and highly subjective task to compare the costs and benefits of intercollegiate athletics.

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