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Faculty outlines revisions for athletic funding

<p>Tim Pernetti, University athletic director, released a letter
Friday detailing the 2011-2012 sports budget.</p>

Tim Pernetti, University athletic director, released a letter Friday detailing the 2011-2012 sports budget.

Some faculty from several departments in the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences are taking steps to reform funding for the University’s intercollegiate athletic program.

Through a resolution, the faculty are demanding an increase in transparency in the Athletic Department’s budget, a reduction of the University subsidy of the intercollegiate athletic program and call for the portion of student fees for athletics to a be put on a student referendum, said Mark Killingsworth, a professor in the Department of Economics, who presented the resolution to his department.

Faculty members plan to present the resolution tomorrow at the School of Arts and Sciences public faculty meeting.

While the University has increased its subsidies to the Athletic Department throughout the years, academic programs have experienced budget cuts from state government and the University administration, Killingsworth said.

The Athletic Department and the University were unable to give further comment beyond a Dec. 9 letter from Athletic Director Tim Pernetti posted on the University Athletics Department’s website.

The 2010-2011 budget for intercollegiate athletics was $59 million, according to Pernetti’s letter.

“During fiscal 2010 — the last year for which complete figures are available — the University’s total subsidy to the athletic program was $26.9 million, 42 percent of the total athletic budget,” according to the resolution.

Killingsworth said the University’s sports subsidy is composed of about $8.4 million in student fees while $18.4 million was from University discretionary funds.

“If the academic programs were getting decent funding, people won’t care [about the sports budget],” he said.

The Athletic Department announced in September its funding from the University’s discretionary funds for fiscal 2012 would be $1 million less than the fiscal 2011 figure, Killingsworth said.

But even after the cut, the fiscal year 2012 — beginning July 1, 2011 and closing June 30, 2012 — subsidy paid via discretionary funds and student fees will be $600,000 higher than the 2010 fiscal year because of the subsidy’s increase each year, Killingsworth said.

The University’s football program has spent $2.86 million more than it earned from ticket sales, sponsorships and other revenues, according to The Star-Ledger. This includes the $6.2 million the University paid on debt to expand the stadium, which is a part of the Athletic Department’s operating expenses.

Pernetti told The Ledger that future financial reports would not include these debt payments as part of the program’s operating expenses.

“When the expansion is paid off, the University will own [the stadium], not the football program, so it just makes sense,” Pernetti told The Ledger.

Killingsworth said this statement is not true — the University owns the stadium already and the expansion will take years to pay off.

“The only possible reason for taking it off the books now is to low-ball the true cost of the athletic program,” he said. “But that will be a complete fiction, because once it lands in whatever books … the University will have to use funds … to pay for the expansion.”

Pernetti told Bloomberg that athletics does not make enough money to do without the University subsidies, according to the resolution.

“The University investment in athletics, which continues to be approximately 1 percent of the overall University budget, has returned hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, positive branding, exposure and visibility for our great University,” Pernetti said in the Dec. 9 letter.

Political science professor Ross Baker, who has been teaching here for more than 40 years, supports the program. He told The Ledger that he has seen an increase in student enthusiasm for athletics and the University in general over the past decade, which brings more activity and business to campus.

Killingsworth said there are other ways for the University to be seen in a positive light, especially through academic rankings. But the report shows that the University’s ranks have fallen.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the University 16th among undergraduate major programs at state-supported universities in 1997, but its most recent Fall 2011 rank shows the University has slipped to 25th, according to the resolution. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the University lost its 2003 rank of 38th and fell to 59th in 2011.

“Academic programs are being cut. That’s basically what the University is all about. When it starts falling in the ratings, the school [needs] a little sense of priorities,” he said.

Killingsworth said if the resolution were to be accepted by the Board of Governors, the University administration would report annually to the faculty on its three-year plan for the athletic budget.

“The first such report, to be presented no later than Feb. 1, 2012, would review the fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013, and would discuss, in particular, the projected University subsidy and student fee allocation for athletics in these years,” according to the resolution.

The second demand calls to recognize that the athletic programming budget is unsustainable.

“The University administration and the Board of Governors [will] freeze the dollar amount of the University subsidy for fiscal 2013 at the level planned for fiscal 2012, and [will] reduce the subsidy amount in every subsequent fiscal year … the subsidy is no more than $13 million,” according to the resolution.

The last demand is to put the athletic program on a student referendum no later than March 1, 2012, and in the absence of a majority vote, these fee allocations will be eliminated completely by July 1, 2013, according to the resolution.

Killingsworth said with faculty support of the resolution, he hopes the issues with athletic spending will be solved internally within the University.

“Faculty are like sleeping giants … when they wake up, they will be heard and they will start to do something,” he said.

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