Who should be paying for UNI athletics?

2010-09-22T12:00:00Z Who should be paying for UNI athletics?By HANS ISAKSON Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
September 22, 2010 12:00 pm  • 

I would like to respond to your recent editorial ("UNI athletics need support," Sept. 13) on the University of Northern Iowa's proposal to lower general-fund support for UNI athletics. I disagree with your contention that the economic benefits generated by UNI athletics to the community justifies the amount of general fund support that UNI athletics receives. Why should taxpayers and students pay to support programs that boost local businesses? The fact that UNI athletics supports the local economy is not sufficient to warrant diverting some $4.2 million (and growing) every year away from the academic programs to support the athletic programs.

The editorial also recognizes that the university can benefit from the success of UNI's athletic programs. A recent study, however, suggests that universities realize very small increased enrollments and/or alumni contributions attributable to an athletic program on campus. The academic programs benefit very little, if at all, from the recent successes of UNI athletics. The royalties from increased online sales of UNI merchandise that you cite is nowhere near the $4.2 million per year that the athletic program receives. Although the success of UNI's athletic programs can be seen on the west side of Hudson Road, very few, if any, of these benefits find their way over to the east side of the street.

Spending on intercollegiate athletics has increased significantly across the country. University athletic programs build lavish new athletic facilities, hire large coaching staffs and find ways to pay winning head coaches outlandishly high salaries and bonuses. UNI has started down this path. Yet it is not necessary to have an expensive athletic program to be a high-quality university. There are many top-notch universities without a big-time athletic program. These universities earn their accolades by attracting the best professors, not the best coaches. The mission of any university is research and education, not entertainment.

Another issue is the shoddy way that the NCAA treats student-athletes. The NCAA (and athletic fans and supporters) find the lavish facilities, huge coaching staffs and high-paid coaches at universities perfectly acceptable, but they punish and even despise the student-athlete who dares to profit from his or her athletic efforts. What hypocrisy! Recently a student-athlete from the University of Georgia was suspended for three football games for selling one of his jerseys, even though the university routinely sells that same jersey to anyone willing to buy it. Intercollegiate athletics is big business, but the athletes who often risk serious injury are not allowed more than a tiny cut of the money they generate for the university. One prominent economist labeled the NCAA as the most "successful" monopoly in America, because it gets away with all of the abuses associated with monopoly power while convincing the public that it has the moral high ground to enforce its abuse of student-athletes.

The key issue with UNI athletics is who should shoulder the burden of the UNI athletic programs? There are only three possible sources to consider: taxpayers (state appropriations), students (student fees & tuition) or the local community (tickets purchased and contributions to athletic programs). A colleague of mine points out that the general funds that go to the UNI athletic program could reduce every student's tuition by well over $300 per year. Yes, the local community's support to build lavish new athletic facilities has been strong. Perhaps the local community could come up with the $4.2 million per year (increased by 3 percent per year) needed to maintain UNI's athletic programs. The fact that it doesn't says much more about the value of UNI's athletic programs to the local community than any editorial.

Editor's note: On Sept. 16, the State of Iowa Board of Regents approved a plan that will lower general fund support for athletics from about $4.5 million this year to $4.2 million by 2015. The plan will allow the university to retain Division I athletics.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. CFmomma
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    CFmomma - September 30, 2010 6:22 pm
    Captian Bruisin' said: "I'd hire a college athlete with a 2.9 GPA over a full-time student with a 3.5 GPA, with all other things being equal. The athletic experience is a very valuable part of the education experience. Just like band, drama, speech and other activities. It teaches discipline, teamwork and sacrifice that a student alone will never know or appreciate.Besides, the academic and arts scholarship opportunities far outweigh the athletic scholarship opportunities. Calling any of these opportunities bad is just plain ignorant.If you can't grasp this fact, then you are "

    I have nothing against athletics or the young people who get the athletic scholarships IF they have a decent GPA in high school and deserve the scholarship. I have a daughter who was a very gifted athlete as well as a 4.0 student in high school and is STILL a 4.0 student in her 2nd year of college. Oh, and she took college and AP courses in high school and still maintained a 4.0 GPA.
    Unfortunately, a few of her classmates took the easy route and barely passed their classes and still managed to get scholarships because they were "gifted" with the skill to play a certain sport.
    Being involved in extra-curricular activities is a wonderful thing as long as it doesn't interfere with getting a good education. The 2 can go hand in hand.
    My kids have all been involved in sports or other activities but if their grades would have suffered they would have been pulled out of whatever the activity was until their grades improved.
    Mr. Brusin', if you'd rather hire an athlete with a 2.9 GPA than a young person who is both and athlete and a scholar because she decided that studying was more important than partying than you go right ahead and do that.
    I failed to mention that she has also held down a job since she was 13 years old. Hmm...just who is the ignorant one?

  2. Captian Bruisin'
    Report Abuse
    Captian Bruisin' - September 30, 2010 1:25 pm
    CFmomma said: "Universities are for higher learning, not for the entertainment of the community. But, once again, McKinley thinks he knows more than everyone else. He also thinks high fructose corn syrup isn't dangerous to people's well being. I have nothing against athletics. I just don't want to be the one funding them in any way, shape, or form. Too many young people who really don't deserve to get scholarships are getting them due to sports and not due to their brains. Too bad. "

    I'd hire a college athlete with a 2.9 GPA over a full-time student with a 3.5 GPA, with all other things being equal. The athletic experience is a very valuable part of the education experience. Just like band, drama, speech and other activities. It teaches discipline, teamwork and sacrifice that a student alone will never know or appreciate.

    Besides, the academic and arts scholarship opportunities far outweigh the athletic scholarship opportunities. Calling any of these opportunities bad is just plain ignorant.

    If you can't grasp this fact, then you are
  3. badsanta
    Report Abuse
    badsanta - September 29, 2010 7:50 am
    A "recent study" showed that athletics do nothing for a university? This statement defies logic, alumni want their alma mater to excell and thrive in academics and athletics and they give more to both when the later achieves and wins, I know I do. Tough times always bring these issues to the forefront.

    Perhaps our government should get out of the education business entirely (at all levels), private schools are very successful, let the marketplace decide who survives.
  4. CFmomma
    Report Abuse
    CFmomma - September 23, 2010 7:49 pm
    Universities are for higher learning, not for the entertainment of the community. But, once again, McKinley thinks he knows more than everyone else. He also thinks high fructose corn syrup isn't dangerous to people's well being.
    I have nothing against athletics. I just don't want to be the one funding them in any way, shape, or form.
    Too many young people who really don't deserve to get scholarships are getting them due to sports and not due to their brains. Too bad.
  5. McKinley
    Report Abuse
    McKinley - September 22, 2010 7:29 pm
    "Why should taxpayers and students pay to support programs that boost local businesses?"

    If you are going to make that argument, why should taxpayers fund UNI at all? We have Iowa and Iowa State. UNI offers nothing that those two institutions can't handle if UNI was torn down and all its faculty fired.

    "These universities earn their accolades by attracting the best professors, not the best coaches. The mission of any university is research and education, not entertainment."

    While I agree that head coaches are overpaid these days, the rest of your statement is so blatantly false it is ridiculous.
    Please tell me which major state universities do not provide entertainment? Virtually every one has athletics and theater and marching bands.

    How the NCAA treats its athletes is completely irrelevant to this issue. This is the same academics vs. athletics argument that has been around for 50-plus years. The fact is the taxpayers decide how their tax money is spent. Your argument that it is the taxpayers' fault that the community supports athletics and wants nice facilities for entertainment is scary to those of us that want a responsive government. People have donated huge sums of money to build the dome, McLeod, and Gallagher-Bluedorn because we don't have much entertainment in our small community. Athletics and other "entertainment" are just as important to UNI as academics and vice versa. It is a total package.
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