University athletics must open the books
Mark Killingsworth, a professor in the Rutgers economics department, praised University President Robert L. Barchi in Friday’s issue of The Daily Targum for his recent proposal to cut school subsidies to the University’s intercollegiate athletics program. Killingsworth called the proposal “long overdue” and outlined steps to systematically and pragmatically reign in the inordinate program and balance a historically unbalanced budget.
Killingsworth brings up several valid points that certainly beg the attention of University and athletic administrators alike. Yet cuts in subsidies to the athletic program alone are only useful insofar as they cut fat from the right places — indeed, outright cuts, when made in the wrong places, can not only prove detrimental to sports programs across campus, but to the whole of the University itself. The most serious issue, in our opinion, is found in the third step outlined by Killingsworth: the University’s athletic program needs to open their books.
Aside from being heralded as home to one of America’s oldest and most storied football teams, the University’s athletics program also shares a reputation as being one the most consumptive and fiscally corpulent. Multi-million dollar investments paired with chronic deficits have painted the program as not only wasteful, but virtually unsustainable. And at a time when the University has had to slash funding to several of its departments in the face of waning state support, such allocations often seem to come at the expense of other areas, most notably academics. So it’s understandable when faculty members like Killingsworth who, seeing their own departments suffer because of an athletic program that cannot keep itself in check, judges the University priorities as rightly inequitable.
The default solution, recommended by Killingsworth and now Barchi, is then to cut. But it’s equally important to remember precisely what value the University’s athletic endeavors do bring to the table, specifically when it comes to its football program. As students, it’s almost impossible to deny that one of the components of the school that makes receiving an education here on the Banks so attractive is its robust and distinguished football team. The presence of a Division 1 football team on campus, the opportunity to attend weekend games at a state-of-the-art stadium, and the recognition associated with it, all helps to bolster University spirit and provide opportunities for student bonding. Without it, the attraction of a University education is inevitably lost.
It would therefore be wise for University administrators like Barchi to approach such cuts with a little discretion — and greater transparency on the part of the athletic department would go along way in helping them do so. The debate between athletics and academics, which such arguments exemplify, is one of the most polarizing issues in the University’s history, and one of the reasons for this can be attributed to the very fact that we’re often hard-pressed to find concrete, verifiable statistics regarding the programs finances and budgetary matters. While information relating to the program’s operating losses, subsidies and deficits are easily obtainable, information relating to exactly where and how the program’s funds are being spent is not. As Killingsworth noted in his column, “the University needs a comprehensive, open and honest discussion of the athletic program’s budget, priorities and future plans.”
Considering this, Barchi and University administrators should first and foremost work to bring about greater transparency regarding the athletic department and its finances.
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