Dear Professor Gilkey:
Please find below a Memo on Athletics for distribution to the Senate
in hard and electronic copy. I will send you the hard-copy version later this
week. This memo is my effort to bring the issue of athletic funding and the role of athletics in academics before the University community. At this point I cannot do much more than this.
1. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW I am writing this memo following a cordial and very helpful conversation I had with Vice-President Daniel Williams (on 21 Dec 99) concerning the budget for the athletic program. Together we went over the program's revenues and expenses for the various sports, as well as those related to the program's administration, etc. While I may not have a perfect understanding of the athletic budget, I do have a much clearer idea of the way the program is funded, in particular the amounts which come from private sources and those which derive from state or general funds. For the year ending 30 June 1999, the program had a revenue of $29,758,468, and expenses amounting to $29,928,249. Obviously this budget is slightly on the red side by $169,781. This would not be alarming were it not for the fact that the revenue total given above also includes an infusion of state funds in the amount of $2,302,457. While the bulk of the athletic budget comes from private donations and ticket sales, the $2.3 million subsidy needed to keep the program afloat at NCAA, DivisionI/Pac-10 level is not an inconsequential amount, particularly as we face serial cancellations, decreased allocations to the various schools, etc. Such cuts in academics are needed to off-set University income lost by our enrollment decline, but the fact is that there are funds in the Oregon University System that could cover our loses; the System chooses to support athletics, by $2.3 million (with hefty sums also allocated to other System schools), so our Oregon program can remain intact and continue to compete in Division I and the Pac-10, while the University's academic side can continue to slide downward, to the second or lesser tiers of research institutions. This apparently is OK.
2. PAST AND FUTURE FUNDING FOR ATHLETICS Before this whole controversy
began with the announcement of the Autzen expansion, I (and I dare say
many others in the faculty as well) was under the impression, obviously
false, that the athletic program was funded entirely by private donations
and ticket sales. Although the $2.3 million general fund subsidy seems
small against the program's $29 million plus budget, this is nevertheless
too large to discount in an era when the University of Oregon cannot properly
support its academic mission. What I find most distressing about this $2.3
million subsidy is that this is not a one-time allocation to prevent a
large budget deficit in athletics, but that this subsidy (varying in amount
from year to year) has in fact been going on for quite some time and is
destined to be prolonged, if all goes as planned, for another five years
(although there is no guarantee that this will not continue in the future,
despite assurances to the contrary). Based on the figures I received from
the Vice-Provost for Administration, the athletic program has received
annually state funds from the 1991-92 academic year to the present one
(1999-2000). The total cost of this allocation to date amounts to $20,
575,565, yes a little over $20.5 million. If this funding initiative on
behalf of athletics continues for another five years at some $2 million
annually, this program will receive another $10 million in state money.
According to the University administration, the Autzen expansion will generate
enough revenues for the athletic program (within 5 years) to eliminate
the need for state subsidies. Given the lack of money for things academic
and the loss of faculty we are experiencing at the University of Oregon,
I cannot see how we can afford another $10 million for athletics, even
with the happy prospect, which is hardly guaranteed, despite the best laid
plans, that this subsidy program will come to an end in five years. (It
is hard for me to understand how the expansion of Autzen stadium will generate
income from ticket sales and sky box rentals to make up it possible for the athletic program to forego the current $2.3 million subsidy when the present revenue income from football tickets is just over one half of this amount ($4,850,647). Will the Autzen expansion really bring in $2.3 million more? If so, it only makes up for the loss in subsidy. What about all the other expenses, such as adding new sports and general cost increases ?). If we just consider the $20.5 million already given to athletics since 1991, what exactly has the University of Oregon, whose goals are teaching and research (see the Mission Statement in the UO Bulletin) gained from this investment? Is this an unfair question to ask of a program operating in an academic setting and drawing money away from teaching and research? Is the academic side of the University stronger and better as a result of this $20.5 million in state funding? Given such an expenditure of tax money, one has to ask what is the purpose of intercollegiate athletics at this University. The conventional wisdom is that we need Athletics because it will attract private donors and lend visibility to the institution, thereby also attracting students. Whether the Administration has said this in black-and-white or not is hardly the point. Most of us have been operating on the assumption that Athletics is crucial to our survival as an academic institution, and certainly no administrators in any of the colleges and universities with which I have been associated have ever discouraged faculty or the public from thinking otherwise. I believe it is time to re-examine our assumptions concerning the value of big time intercollegiate sports in relation to the University's mission of teaching and research. If Athletics cannot support and aid these, then I cannot see why we should have this program to begin with, or, if we do elect to retain it, why do we have to do this with state funds, such as we have now done so for a decade and will do so for at least five more years, or longer, if not indefinitely, given that costs for athletics are likely to rise (as acknowledged by the Vice-Provost in an email of 30 Nov 99). One should bear in mind that this stadium project already begins with a disadvantage: it has to generate enough money not only to cover the loss of the $2 million plus subsidy a year, but also enough income to cover in the future "the annual cost increases experienced by other [i.e. non-football] programs." To this should be added future increases in coaching salaries and the maintenance of buildings, which as they age will cost more in upkeep. I am hardly convinced that the Autzen stadium expansion will permanently eliminate the need for the state funds that presently ensure Oregon's participation in Pac-10/Division I level sports, a level which clearly we cannot afford, and to which we have given, since 1991, $20.5 million, and looking ahead, $10 million more in the next five years.
3. ATHLETICS AND THE UNIVERSITY'S MISSION Given the mission of the University, teaching and research, and the investment thus far (since 1991) of $20.5 million on athletics, how exactly has this benefited our institution, besides keeping us in the Pac-10? Are we now better off academically or are we worse off? Certainly, maintaining Oregon's visibility in the Pac-10 is important for obtaining talented recruits for our sports program, but has this high profile, maintained by drawing $20.5 million away from academics, increased our recruitment of students? Clearly it has not, even after several winning seasons. That high-profile sports has attracted large donors there can be no question, but if these large sums go to sports, we in academics are no better off. It is true that some who give to sports also donate to academics, and for that I am truly grateful, but what is far from proven (I have yet to see a study or figures on this) is that academics cannot raise on its own considerable sums of private funds for teaching and research. There is, I submit, a great deal of pressure for us to think that we dare not cut athletics for this will have dire consequences on other fund raising efforts, such as those directed by various schools and colleges (which, judging from results, have not been unsuccessful in selling the academic mission of their respective units). I think it is time to demythologize, by concrete and in-depth studies, the extent to which athletics contribute to the development of higher education, both in Oregon and in this country in general.
4. STAYING IN THE NCAA/DIVISION I and PAC-10 While academic programs and services are allowed to decline for lack of funds, athletic programs are supported with public money so they can continue to operate in the black; this avoids making cuts that would jeopardize Oregon's ranking in the highest levels of intercollegiate sports. We at the University of Oregon (or the Oregon University System to be more exact) cannot afford, as the above millions of subsidy dollars indicate, to field an athletic program at the Pac-10 level. These millions are needed right now, and not five years hence, if we are not fall, with respect to academics, below peer institutions in the Pac-10. So why then do we have athletics in Oregon? The only rational reason, and the one which the Administration seems to offer, is that we need it because academics would be worse off without sports. There is room to doubt this proposition. For one, we would, without athletics, be $20.5 million richer now. Secondly, it has yet to be proven that we cannot mount a successful capital campaign fund without a high-profile sports program. Thirdly, a winning sports program has not increased our student enrollment. So what exactly is the justification for sports at the current level, a level that is drawing resources from academics, and is likely to continue doing so for at least five years, if not longer?
5. GENDER EQUITY vs NCAA/PAC-10 RULES Ostensibly, the current state subsidies for athletics and the revenue projected from the Autzen expansion are meant to allow Oregon to add more sports for women, thereby bringing the University into compliance with Title IX gender requirements. By doing this, the athletic program avoids cutting the number of sports for men. To do this would be suicidal, for the rules of NCAA Division I / Pac-10, the "major league" of college sports, require that member institutions have a minimum of ten (or so) sports. We cannot afford this number for both men and women, and hence we need to subsidize our athletic program for without it Oregon would be out of big time college sports. Title IX and the call for gender equity, which I fully support, have made our athletic program harder to maintain. But let us be clear, gender equity is not the real issue nor the main problem, but rather the rules of the NCAA and the Pac-10, regulations which could be changed to permit members institutions to reduce the required number of sports to a more reasonable figure. College presidents and us faculty ought to get behind a movement to downsize NCAA requirements, and to review some of its other practices and policies as well. This will be a difficult task given that many coaching jobs would be at stake, and then there is the sports-corporate-industrial complex to contend with (just look at the Duck web-page and all its advertisements, for starters); then too, the Pac-10 would not want to give up its elite status by allowing "lesser" schools into its exclusive pack. Another solution, if the NCAA cannot be persuaded to change its rules, is for us to drop down to a lower division, paralleling our own drop in academic standing for lack of funding. For some fans at least, not being in the elite of the sports world, but rather in the lowly company of Lewis and Clark, would make the whole sports enterprise not worth the effort. May be so, but I am not convinced that the one currently running at the highest level is worth it either, particularly after having expended $20.5 million on it since 1991 and presently more than $2 million annually.
6. REDUCING ATHLETIC EXPENSES If public money is to fund big time sports, then I think we should examine ways in which the athletic program can trim its budget so more of this funding can be channeled to the academic side of the University. For example, why should we engage in tournaments and post-season games (some teams, at other schools, have declined invitations, by the way) when our participation results in a net loss of revenue--last year we spent more than we earned (the deficit was $324,828, more than enough to restore scheduled discussion sections by GTFs in my department's survey courses). Just as we the faculty have to teach more students and do more with less, can we not expect our coaches, who are much better paid and have recruitment and other expenses paid for, do some belt tightening and suffer like the rest of us? Do we really need: 12 FTE coaching positions in football (more than one per position in the team), for a total of $1,143,928 (which divided by 12 equals $95, 327 per year)?; 5 FTE coaching positions for men's basketball (one per position), for a total of $327,262?; and 5 FTE coaching positions for women's basketball, for a total of $292,683 ?-- so much for gender equity in terms of salary. What about equipment and supplies? Are these recurring yearly expenses (see the Athletic Budget spread sheet for June 1999)? If so, can they perhaps manage with older equipment, just as we do constantly in academics? I would not ask these questions if all the operating budget were coming from private funds. But that is not the case, nor has it been for the last nine academic years based on the documents I have on hand.
7. MARCHING TO SALEM Last March or thereabouts, I marched up
to Salem with several faculty in my department, several hundred colleagues
in other departments and schools, and with many staff persons as well.
All this was undertaken in order to convince the Legislature to increase
its funding for higher education. I don't know about others, but I went
thinking I was marching in support of a budget which was totally for academics.
I would not have gone if I had known that I was also asking for money to
splurge on non-essentials, things not related to our academic mission.
I am distressed to think that when we are asked to go out and beg in Salem,
and many of us heeded that call, that the Oregon University System can
still see fit to fund athletics (and not just at Oregon, but at its other
universities as well) so athletic programs can continue to flourish and
march unharmed in the world of sports elitism and commercialism, while
those of us engaged in teaching and research are forced to limp along and
sometimes even be allowed to fall. Where are our priorities,? Let us question the value of sports to our academic institution, and the assumptions that have given it a privileged place in the academic world.
8. THE BOTTOM LINE We are told that there is not enough money to fund our academic program, in part because Oregon this year failed to increase its student enrollment. But the bottom line is this: There is money in the Oregon University System to fund academics, but significant sums are simply not going for teaching and research because the System has "mandated that all athletic programs have balanced budgets." Would someone prove to me that academics are better off at the University of Oregon because the Oregon University System, our local University officials, and we the faculty, by our actions or inaction, have decided to advance our sports program to the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics at a cost that tears at the heart and soul of our educational mission. We cannot wait five more years and $10 million dollars later, when Auzten is completed, to fund our academic programs. Enough has already been spent on athletics this past decade and there is no assurance, given that costs spiral upward, that athletics subsidies are going to end five years from now.
9. FINAL THOUGHTS The Oregon University System and the University
of Oregon have made a commitment to keeping athletics at top competitive
level; they have provided state funding so our teams can continue to be,
so to speak, "accredited" in and by such bodies as the NCAA and Pac-10,
apparently to please fans, alumni and the sports establishment, rather
than for any academic reason. Despite our Mission Statement and the charter
founding this University, which concern teaching and research, no comparable
commitment has been made to make sure we do not lose accreditation of certain
libraries and programs, such as the School of Architecture and Allied Arts
Portland program, which is currently struggling to survive. There is also
no comparable legislation that "mandates" funding to keep our resources
for research from being cut and stemming the downward spiral in which we
presently find ourselves. The only segment of this University that is healthy
and on the upswing is Athletics, thanks in part to guaranteed state funding,
a privilege not accorded to academics. Have we lost our compass? I hope
the faculty and Senate will take the lead in finding our proper bearings
because it will clearly not come from the Oregon University System, and
I regret most especially to say, that neither will it come from the administrators
of this University for they have clearly committed to keeping Oregon "accredited"
in the Pac-10. It greatly pains me to think that this is the case; it is
yet another blow to my morale as a faculty member to know that neither
my teaching nor my research is as valued as the football team and the work
of its coaches.
Attachment: Athletic Budget Spread Sheet
Copy: Brad Shelton, Mathematics Member of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee
Richard A. Sundt Associate Professor Department of Art History University
of Oregon Eugene, OR 97403-5229 USA Telephone 541-346-4698 FAX 541-346-3626
23 December 1999
Open Letter to:
President Frohnmayer, Provost Moseley, Vice-President Williams and Senate President Gilkey
On 21 December 1999 I met with Dan Williams to discuss the athletic budget and this was a most helpful and cordial meeting. It clarified a number of things not only about the budget as such, but aspects relating to the $135 million building campaign and the $255 million to be allocated to programs and people. The budget figures Mr. Williams showed me dispelled one of my fears: that large portions of the athletic budget, such as coaches salaries and much else, were being paid out of general (i.e. state) funds. I am pleased that this is not the case.
I would thus like to explain and correct the statement I made, or rather that was put into my mouth, by Alan Pittman in his Eugene Weekly column (16 Dec 99), namely that "Obviously, they (University administrators) are keeping the books in some funny way if they can't say what's private and what's public." This remark, which was not one that I really wanted to make in this unexpected phone "interview," came as a result of an email from Dan Williams on 7 Dec 99. I had requested information regarding what in the athletic budget proceeded from public funds and what from private. His answer was that "it is difficult to answer some of the questions in the way you have asked them. I'm going to collect a couple of documents which I believe will describe… the match ups between revenues and expenses." Mr. Williams's response caused me to think the worst. Having now met with him and gone over the figures I see that my anxiety was misplaced. Unfortunately, my meeting with Dan Williams came long after the interview with Mr. Pittman.
I would like to assure all administrators in Johnson Hall that I am not out to convey wrong information and hurt this University in any way, nor to denigrate its administrators as my comments in the Weekly might suggest. I am writing and talking about athletic issues because I want to see the University flourish and be in a position to realize fully its stated mission. I believe I told Mr. Pittman that I was going to be meeting with Mr. Williams, and that I would then have a more accurate picture of the budgetary situation. In the course of our conversation I made some references to the memo I sent to the Senate and the statement I read before this body in early December. Mr. Pittman asked if I could send him copies of these, but I refused, saying that I felt this was improper on my part, but that he could find them by looking at the Senate's web page. I also and most emphatically stated to Mr. Pittman, when he announced his intention of writing an editorial page on university salaries (and by implication how the Autzen expansion project was hindering any prospects of faculty raises), that my real concern was not the stadium expansion itself, nor faculty salaries per se (although a for-instance with regard to mine crept up in our talk), but rather the fact that collegiate athletics here and everywhere have simply gotten out of hand, and that in the end they are drawing money away from academics, such as the current subsidy of some $2.3 million to assure compliance with Title IX in terms of gender equity.
I have no problem with gender equity in sports or in anything else. But the problem with athletics at Oregon is not gender equity as such, but it is NCAA rules about what constitutes division I, and the University's decision to be in the "major leagues" of college sports, and to do so at the expense and detriment of academics. It is time for us faculty, and our representatives in the Administration, to reduce and reform big time sports. This may be something Washington can afford, but not Oregon if we have to be subsidizing it with over $2 million for the next two to five years. I am not a little annoyed that in fact we have used general funds to subsidize athletics beginning in 1991 (based on materials given me by Mr. Williams), then at the amount of $1, 400,000, and this continues to the present (with as much as $2,806, 656 in 1996). I doubt that many faculty are aware of this, nor would they be at all pleased to know that the bill since 1991 amounts to over $21 million in state money.
We have talked about the "process for change" at this University. I think it is clear that athletics at the current level should be changed. Unfortunately, I am afraid there is no courage to change in the face of the power and influence of sports (just look at the Duck web-page, which is dot-com, by the way [which proves one of my points], not dot-edu -- an arrangement that allows for U of O indirectly to advertise products that I don't think we ought to be promoting). As a faculty member I feel responsible for the current situation, the fact that we have allowed athletics to grow beyond our means. It is not something I can put on the shoulders of the Provost or the President. I have not done anything about it in the past. But now I do want you and all my faculty colleagues to know where I stand on this issue and that I will try to do what I can to bring a change. By this I don't mean the elimination of athletics (which is embedded in American culture), but its reformation (downsizing) in order to let our academic programs have the full funding they deserve, thus making the University of Oregon, in terms of resources and academic goals, "compliant" with its Mission Statement.
Richard A. Sundt Associate Professor
Richard A. Sundt Associate Professor Department of Art History University of Oregon Eugene, OR 97403-5229 USA Telephone 541-346-4698 FAX 541-346-3626 email: firstname.lastname@example.org