Faculty supports athletic budget cuts
School of Arts and Sciences faculty members passed a resolution calling for more transparency in the University’s intercollegiate athletics program budget yesterday, with an overwhelming majority of 174 to 3 at Voorhees Hall on the College Avenue campus.
The resolution also calls for a reduction of the University subsidy to the athletic program and a student referendum on the portion of student fees allocated to athletics, said Mark Killingsworth, a professor in the Department of Economics.
“I believe that today’s vote is a very significant first step on the road to new priorities for this university — priorities that will put education first,” said Killingsworth, the primary proposer of the resolution.
The final resolution asks the University administration and Board of Governors to present a projected three-year report for the Athletic Department and to put the student-fee allocation for athletics to student referendum by April 15, Killingsworth said.
The University will also be asked to impose a moratorium on the amount of subsidy given to the Athletic Department in fiscal year 2013 and reduce the amount every year, so by fiscal year 2016, the subsidy should be no more than $13 million, according to the resolution.
The administration said it has already adopted two of the three recommendations in the resolution — increased transparency and cutting down the Athletic Department’s operating budget, according to a University statement.
“Direct support to athletics has been reduced by $1 million,” according to the statement. “Further, athletics has been in detailed discussions with members of the senior administration to achieve an annual and consistent reduction in University support in the coming years.”
Killingsworth remained unsatisfied with the University’s reaction, saying the statement has “a lot of spin, but no substance.”
“First, it doesn’t say whether the administration is willing to disclose its plans and budget for the athletic program for the next three years,” he said. “[Also] since the subsidy grew from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2012, the cuts this past year clearly are just window dressing, not a serious attempt to cut the subsidy.”
The University’s subsidy to the Athletic Department in fiscal year 2010 was $26.9 million, according to the resolution. The University has spent $135 million in student fees and discretionary funds since 2005, in addition to millions of dollars to upgrade athletic facilities.
The Athletic Department has acknowledged that the program is not self-sustaining without University subsidy, and President Richard L. McCormick has stated that athletics will most likely never generate revenue for the University, according to the resolution.
“It will always be possible that someday in the future the football program will make money,” said Lee Jussim, a professor in the Department of Psychology. “[We can only hope] that they will someday provide a contribution to Rutgers that is worth the cost.”
Anthropology Professor David Hughes said the University should focus more on providing cost-effective athletic options for students.
“I believe in a sound mind and body, and I believe in some of the non-revenue benefits of these sports, but there are cheaper ways of doing that,” Hughes said. “We can have any intramural sport we want for less money than the football team loses in one game.”
Hughes said the University is in a budgetary crisis and should cut its losses for the sake of academics.
“As faculty, we find it an insult to our dignity that we are walking around getting paid a handful of the percentage of what the football coach earns, and he contributes nothing to education except scholarships for disadvantaged youth,” he said. “But those benefits are also achievable without a football team.”
Norman Markowitz, an associate professor in the Department of History, commented on former head football coach Greg Schiano’s recent departure from the University to become the head coach of the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Greg Schiano left Rutgers in the lurch, earning $2 million a year,” he said. “Schiano is an example of what this university has become — a place where there’s no loyalty, no commitment and frankly, the best thing any faculty member can do is find a way to get bigger, better jobs and get out of here.”
The Athletic Department was not available for comment at press time.
Derek Gordon, an associate professor in the Department of Genetics, said money should not be spent on athletics to the detriment of academics.
“When I think of the great institutions of this country and throughout the world like Harvard or Princeton … some of them have excellent sports programs, but what are they primarily known for? They’re primarily known for their academics,” he said. “I think this is a question of priorities.”
But Spanish Professor Carl Kirschner said he opposed the resolution because of its inaccurate data and unclear purpose.
He said the elimination of student fees allocated to athletics would not affect the University’s football or men’s basketball programs, but it would threaten the women’s basketball team and the 21 Olympic sports teams that do not generate enough revenue to support themselves.
“Although it does not explicitly state it, the resolution is an attack on the Olympic sports and the student-athlete participants,” said Kirschner, a former interim athletic director at the University.
The statement said student fees do not support football or men’s basketball, and a referendum to remove athletics from student fees would only harm non-revenue sports.
“If these revenues were curtailed, it could have devastating effects on sports programs that do not generate revenue, likely resulting in the elimination of additional Olympic sports programs,” according to the statement.
Killingsworth said in fiscal year 2011, the total cost of non-revenue sports was $10.7 million, compared to the overall subsidy of $29 million.
“There is plenty of room to cut the subsidy without doing anything at all to our non-revenue sports,” he said. “And just maybe the revenue sports can work a little harder to earn some revenue, instead of taking ever-larger subsidies.”
Killingsworth also noted that budget cuts are affecting the University’s standing as an academic institution.
“The University is taking hits [because of budget cuts],” Killingsworth said. “We’re getting killed in the ratings, and I’m not talking about the 25 top football teams — I’m talking about the 25 top graduate programs.”
U.S. News and World Report ranked the University 16th among state-supported undergraduate programs in 1997, but in fall 2011 the University tied for 25th place, according to the resolution.
In the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the University was placed 38th in 2003 and 59th in 2011, according to the resolution.
Among graduate programs, the National Research Council ranked 11 of the University’s programs among the top 25 in 1995, but as of last fall only eight remain, according to the resolution.
Kirschner said the resolution’s main focus is on cutting back University athletics when it should propose ways to bolster University academics.
“If the resolution is anti-football, it should state that. If the resolution is calling for increased expenditures on academics, it should state that. If the resolution is intended as an expression of dissatisfaction with the salary freeze, it should state that,” he said.
Maureen Barr, a University alumna and associate professor in the Department of Genetics, said the resolution should make a distinction between cutting the football program’s budget and the Athletic Department’s budget as a whole.
“We speak of eliminating athletics as we might eliminate art in the crunch of a budget crisis,” Barr said. “We don’t want to do that. What we need to do is focus on the issues and resentment we have when we look at the football stadium, and for me that sucks the life out of me.”
The revised resolution will be presented to University President Richard L. McCormick and the New Brunswick Faculty Council, a representative assembly of faculty members from various schools at the University, Killingsworth said.
“We can’t compel the administration or the Board of Governors to do anything, but what we can do is ask them to reorder their priorities,” he said. “This is not anti-athletics — this is pro-academics.”