Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stop Funding College Sports

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Though the economic crisis has taken a striking, media-grabbing toll on the federal government, state governments are also scrambling to address budgetary issues. Many states are implementing across-the-board spending cuts, while others are targeting those programs that they believe are most expendable. Whatever their strategy, lawmakers are ripping through budgets, looking for excess fat that can be eliminated to trim down expenditures. Given this political and budgetary climate, it seems remarkable that state lawmakers continue funneling taxpayer dollars toward college and university athletic departments, says A. Barton Hinkle, a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
A Bloomberg study found that 46 of the 53 schools examined subsidize their sports programs, supporting a statement by the NCAA that most athletic departments operate in the red.
According to a story in USA Today, six Virginia schools charged each of their students more than $1,000 as an athletics fee for the 2008-2009 school year, constituting between 10 percent and 23 percent of the total tuition and mandatory-fee charges for in-state students.
Using the University of Florida as an example, while the school gained $44 million and $2 million from its profitable football and basketball teams, respectively, it lost $2.8 million on women's basketball, $5.3 million on other men's sports, $10 million on other women's sports, $17.4 million on coaches' salaries, $7.5 million in aid to student athletes and $1.4 million in recruiting.

Given that most athletic departments are net losses for funds, it is time that state lawmakers ask themselves a more fundamental question: how does athletic entertainment further the purpose of universities? While some claim that university athletics programs help to produce better-rounded students, this is only true for those few students who actively participate -- it is difficult to accept the argument that merely watching the game molds character.

This underlines the crux of the issue: universities and the lawmakers who fund them need to revisit the purpose of higher education, and rededicate themselves to attaining it. In a time of budget cuts and belt-fastening, wasteful and unproductive spending should not be allowed to continue.

Source: A. Barton Hinkle, "Stop Funding College Sports," Reason Magazine, October 14, 2011.

Stop Funding College Sports

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