Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SIUC Athletic Budget Up 121.6% in last five years

That figure comes from a series of articles in the Chronicle (main article; support article; table of figures),* and shows that SIUC had the third highest such increase among institutions at our athletic level, the "Football Championship Subdivision". The article's main point is that institutions like SIUC are spending more and more on athletics in what may well prove a futile and unsustainable effort to match institutions with marquee athletics programs.  SIUC is one of the poster children for this trend. In 2005-6, SIUC was spending $10.5 million on athletics.  In 2009-2010 we spent $23.2 million. Those figures are adjusted for inflation.  And they don't even include capital spending--though Saluki Way gets us several paragraphs midway into the story.

Student fees also help pay for major capital improvements. That's what happened at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where fee income covered more than half of $76-million in recent construction, including a new football stadium and major renovations to the basketball arena—both completed this year—and an academic-services building for athletes. (The city of Carbondale chipped in $20-million for the project, and athletics raised $10-million in private donations.)
The projects coincided with cuts on the Carbondale campus—$13-million as of last year—and across the state, as Illinois lawmakers grappled with one of the worst budget deficits in the nation. William Recktenwald, a senior lecturer in the university's journalism school who serves as president of Southern Illinois's Faculty Senate, says the new buildings for sports raised a few eyebrows on the campus—especially as employees took furlough days and fretted over the possibility of layoffs: "We were very hard-pressed. At that point, when you're taking unpaid days, people say, 'Well, gee, they could afford a new stadium,'" he says. "We're not a rich school."
Mark Scally, the athletic department's chief financial officer, defends athletics' growth and the methods used to pay for it. "There isn't any money that we're using for this project that they could use for the department of history," he says. "It wasn't like we were taking food out of their mouths to do this."
The typical response: money for my priority is different from money for your priority. Well, let's see. They are obviously taking it out of the mouths of our students in the form of student fees: fees for Saluki Way and for the regular operating budget. In 2009-2010, the last year for which I've found figures (on the very handy USA Today "College athletics finance database"), the athletics department ran a surplus. But 40.8% of its revenues came from student fees, and 14.7% from "direct institutional support" and 5.3% from "indirect facilities and administrative support" from the university.  That means that more than 60% of their budget came from dollars that could have gone elsewhere. By contrast, only 7.4% came from ticket sales, and 20.4% from contributions. 

Add to the financial burden the cost to academic morale on campus, and the cost to SIUC's image.  We once had a solid party-school reputation. Then we made a play for a sports school reputation.  Now, supposedly, we are promoting the excellence of our academic programs. While cutting funding for them and pouring money into athletics.  Sounds like a winning plan to me.  

* To read the Chronicle for free at home, log on to SIUC's network using a VPN client.  You can find the required tools here.


  1. As a member of the History Department, I can attest to the fact that--contrary to Mark Scally's claim--food is being taken out of our mouths. The food is called knowledge. We currently have neither a permanent Asian nor Latin American historian on our faculty, and this situation will not change so long as there is a hiring freeze. Entire regions of the globe are being neglected within our program, and our students suffer as a result. Meanwhile, new athletic facilities are popping up like mushrooms on this campus. As Dave's post makes clear, the claim that athletics and academics come from entirely separate pools of money is spurious. It's a question of priorities.

  2. Don't forget that the average attendance at our games is all time low.
    It is 'only' a question of priorities; we had surplus but still got pay cut. Donors will give for what we ask. We have been asking the donors to give us for athletics, saluki way, alumni building, Chancellor's inauguration……

  3. I wish to support Natasha concerning her comments and also want to point out that my Department (English) and others on this campus are suffering from the lack of faculty replacements leaving students worried as to whether they will have enough credits to finish their classes. Building projects (not academic!) galore tend to proliferate and administrators can be hired, not key faculty. This is a very serious situation where sports gains priority over education - which is what a University should be about.

  4. The lie that money from student athletic fees does not come from elsewhere is easy to see. We raised fees and instead of tuition. We could cut the athletics fee and raise tuition to give students more educational opportunities for the same dollar amount.

    BTW, they put in a new floor for the basketball court of the Rec Center. Also note that Athletics has kept control of the old football field. Is that permanent?

  5. Of course, it is permanent. If you ever tried to park in the Faner lot on Saturday to get to your lab or office, you were regarded as little better than a criminal if you were not a sports fan. Saluki Way Funding should be cut and whatever is available elsewhere should be transferred to the educational needs that a University is really about, save SIUC.

  6. I fully agree with Natasha that "food" in the form of knowledge, and opportunity, is being taken from our mouths as a result of skewed priorities towards athletics on this campus. Take a look at the Morris Library budget for science journals. Every year we are asked to cut existing journals because 1) our budget is static and 2) the costs of these journals is increasing. You would think that having electronic access to journals would make things cheaper for institutions, but this is false. By limiting access to journals, you limit access to the primary source of original data - essential for a research university. Yes, I was told (by former Chancellor Goldman) that money for the Library is "different" than money for a football stadium. After hearing this, I asked myself "are we one University or a collection of autonomous units?"
    And my second example of money being drained from academics occurred just a few weeks ago. For over a decade SIUC has been a member of the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS) whose headquarters is at Duke University. A number of past undergraduate and graduate students participated in excellent courses in Costa Rica and South Africa - all at a tremendously discounted prices because we were members of OTS. Well, in the short-term interest of saving money, our new Provost saw fit to stop our involvement with OTS. How much was saved? $9,600 per year (several thousand of that is recovered in tuition savings to students because SIUC was a member institution). So our future students have now lost the opportunity to take part in courses such as "Tropical Biology on a Changing Planet", "Global Health", "African Ecology and Conservation", "Tropical Biology", and "Global Health Issues in South Africa." What can I say? Penny wise, pound foolish?
    Dan, Plant Biology


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