But to the consternation of some faculty members at Berkeley, the university's sports program is running multimillion-dollar deficits -- on top of the annual institutional subsidies -- that are requiring the university to make short-term loans to the sports program. Not only that, but Cal officials revealed that the central administration in 2007 forgave $31 million in previous loans to the athletics department to cover annual deficits.This might seem simple enough, what with massive budget cuts here in California, but the story above goes on to tell how difficult it was for professors to get even the most basic information on sports funding out of the public university--often a sign of some kind of cover-up.
There's probably never a good time for professors to find out that their athletics programs are draining university funds. But it's hard to imagine a worse time for such revelations at Berkeley, given that faculty and staff members are being furloughed and students are being shut out of enrolling.
And I don't mean just to point fingers at Cal, although that's where the professors did their work. This is no doubt systemic throughout the NCAA:
The fundamental premise of the faculty critique is one that could be leveled at most colleges that play Division I sports: that the athletics department, as an "auxiliary enterprise," in higher education lingo, is supposed to support itself, with the revenues it produces through ticket sales, television deals and fund raising adding up to more than its costs. The problem is that according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association study released this month, virtually none do. Only 25 Division I sports programs turned a profit in 2008 counting only their "generated revenues," the study found, and only 18 had shown a profit consistently for five years.
The vast majority of universities therefore subsidize their sports programs financially in various ways; the median Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) public university provides $8.5 million a year in institutional funds (a combination of direct support, indirect support like waived utility costs and student fees), while the median private institution provides nearly $12.5 million in such funds.
What should be done? I have no problem with extracurricular activities that are self-supporting, but these programs are not self-supporting. What do I, as a California taxpayer, get for subsidizing the athletic programs at the 20+ CSU's and the 10 UC campuses? Should universities focus more on academics?