Locally, the Southern Illinoisan ran a series of articles recently on the state of athletics:
Small but strong: Reduced staff keeps SIU afloat in academic raceThis came before the most recent news, the investigation of a Saluki basketball player accused of sexual assault (though no charges have yet been filed): Police investigating SIU's Bocot. We of course also have the sexual harassment scandal regarding athletics--a problem exacerbated by the administration's unwillingness to bargain a transparent set of procedures for addressing accusations of sexual harassment (which would have made the university's own finding that there was no real violation here more credible).
Doing things the Saluki Way: Athletic facilities took priority at SIU
Take a look at the whole picture
The state of Saluki sports
The series in the Southern asked many of the right questions, but the answers were given, overwhelmingly, by Mario Moccia, who naturally enough defended his programs. Thus the overall result was something of a whitewash. While the recent losing records of the football and basketball teams were duly noted, and there was some attention to the spending for Saluki Way, there was no mention of the fact that SIUC doubled athletics spending in the last five years. Nor did anyone make the argument that our huge investment in athletics was paying off in terms of our wider goals--including increasing enrollment. It seems to me rather clear that SIUC made a huge gamble by pouring most of our disposable revenue into athletics. We've obviously lost this bet.
We've lost not simply because our teams are losing--as many college teams lose as win each and every game, and as the Southern pointed out, SIUC is no exception. We'll have up seasons and down seasons when it comes to the win loss record. And there will be scandals, given the pressures and contradictions between academic, athletic, and business values. The real problems are structural: the idea that a university's success depends on, or can be measured by, how good of a job it does supplying entertainment to its basketball and football fans. Athletics drains resources from academics. That's true even at top of the line big-money academic programs, and it is even more true among mid majors like SIUC. The last five years were the worst possible time to exacerbate the problem by engaging in a building boom and budget boom for athletics.