Spring is in the air. The birds are chirping. Kids are outside playing.
This is a grossly superfluous aside, but I absolutely despise newspaper stories that begin with some variation of this series of obvious observations.
Bet your left thumb that anyone who uses that as a lead is a terrible or lazy writer.
Anyhow, back to my reason for blogging tonight. I had some thoughts pop into my head while mulling over the athletics department budget data...
- The football team lost $3.3 million dollars last year. To put that in perspective, people around the university often complain about the "overpaid" administration. A recent Buchtelite story showed the 24 administrators, not including president Luis Proenza, earn about $3.3 million.
- Three million dollars. Let that sink in. First, you need to know $3.3 million is not an abhorration from similar programs. Someone close to Kent State's program told me the Flashes are about $4 million in the red, too.
- It makes you ask yourself, is football worth it? I carefully say, yes. First of all, football brings a sense of cohesion to a campus. Now, UA doesn't necessarily feel it right now with an off-campus stadium, but you certainly will notice a buzz around campus starting in 2009. I've been on Northern Illinois' campus on a gameday, and, forgive the Disney-sounding adjective, it is truly magical for a college football fan.
- Now you're asking, so what? Well, the football program's money-making potential should skyrocket starting in 2009. Attendance will rise. Corporate sponsorships should as well. Here's another ploy UA is certain to use: bringing prospective students to campus on a gameday. It's that lure that made me absolutely crazy about Ohio State as a high school senior.
- Those are intangible benefits. Let's not forget the benefit to the community of having a stadium sit right next to a shady part of Akron. It should serve to chase some of the bums away. UA's University Park Alliance plan should do a lot of that also. But I digress.
- Eleven of the other sports lose between $250,000 and $600,000 a year. Those sports, aside from men's basketball, have little benefit to campus. Few students attend the matches, meets or games. If the sports went away, probably only the athletes would notice. However, the NCAA requires Division I programs to maintain a certain number of sports. As much as you want to whine about the volleyball or baseball team combining to burn almost $1 million, it's a moot point.
- Everyone should praise the rifle team for being so effective with a budget under $90,000. Coach Newt Engle earns just $4,184 to lead one of the nation's top 20 squads. Not bad. I could be wrong, though. Maybe rifle is just an incredibly inexpensive sport regardless.
- Here's where my real horror lies: The women's basketball team blows almost $900,000 a year. Holy schmoly! I recognize Title IX forces gender equality, but come on! I'm not the world's biggest fan of Title IX; nor am I signing petitions to repeal it in regards to college athletics. I think it's pretty clear the provision is costing public institutions money.
- A UA administrator brought up an excellent point to me when UA was considering firing Kelly Kennedy last year. There's no disputing her ineffectiveness as head coach. However, is it really worth eating the final year of her contract, worth almost $100,000, when the women's basketball program only grosses $25,000 in revenue? I said, no.
- Overall, I argue a lot of these rules from Title IX and the NCAA cripple the budgets of small Division I schools. Ohio University, which probably was well over its sports quota, is cutting three sports. I don't blame the Bobcats. Although many of these teams have tradition or whatever, you're talking about taxpayer money.
- Maybe I'm just too conservative fiscally, but no team is worth blowing $600,000, unless it brings some other intangible value to campus. If you are able to cut that team, without losing Divison I status or angering Title IX, you do it. Period.