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Thoughts On The State Budget Crisis, Athletics

January 21, 2011

This week, the N&O ran this article about impending state budget cuts that have forced new chancellor Randy Woodson to consider massive restructuring and degree program cuts.

As a proud CHASS graduate from an engineering and agriculture school, my immediate fear is that many of the folks I learned under at CHASS might be facing the elimination of their jobs or the very programs they helped create that enriched my life and those of so many other State graduates: engineers, ag students and others alike.

I read the article, then peeked at the comment section to see what folks were saying.

Among some well reasoned replies were sprinkled a few of the typical responses you see these days regarding the relationship between academics and athletics. That response being, essentially, "Do away with athletics. The focus should be only on academics."

I responded there, and (to avoid duplicating efforts) figured I'd share it here:

For those saying State, or any other school, should cut funding to athletics is looking at it through an extremely myopic lens. For one, research has repeatedly shown that schools that succeed athletically have alumni that are EXTREMELY generous to ACADEMIC funding (check out the size of the endowments of UNC and Duke versus N.C. State and their growth rates over the last 30 years).

Two, successful athletic programs create fans of the school, and fans will lean to applying to their favorite school when possible. Check out the surges in applications to Davidson after their run through the NCAA tournament several years ago, or at App State after their big win over Michigan. More applications = increased selectivity = higher quality student body.

Three, most–if not all–major schools almost exclusively fund their athletic scholarships and other expenses with some sort of "booster" club (The Wolfpack Club. The Rams Club, The Iron Dukes, etc.). So those that believe cutting funding to athletics at the major schools would suddenly free up loads of cash are misguided. The amount large schools receive from the state that winds up at the athletic offices are relatively minor compared to the revenues from TV contracts and ticket sales, and alumni donations.

But let's say you COULD prevent schools from using public university funds for athletics. Guess which schools that hurts the most…the small schools who don't get exorbitant monies from TV or ticket sales, or have large alumni bases to pump cash into their programs. You'd be killing off athletics ALTOGETHER at smaller Division II and Division III colleges while trying to exact some measure of refocusing on academics at the large schools folks view as "the problem."

Trust me, Randy Woodson, Thorp, and other chancellors across the state and country ALL recognize the VERY IMPORTANT role that athletics plays in a school's overall ACADEMIC health. The two go hand-in-hand, and trying to stifle them to make yourself feel better about putting the focus back on academics will only further worsen the situation, not improve it.

There are tough times ahead, but I like who we now have in place in the leadership roles, both in the athletic AND academic realms.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    January 21, 2011 9:49 am

    I really thought your opinion was crazy, but then I saw all the BOLDED parts and realized, “hey, he’s right!”

    • admin permalink
      January 21, 2011 5:17 pm

      You gotta really hammer it home, you know?

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