7.11.09

THE CASE FOR RETRENCHMENT GROWS. University Diaries picks up a report from Berkeley with an unusual lede.
Home to the nationally ranked Cal Bears and a clutch of Nobel laureates, the University of California, Berkeley, boasts brains and brawn.
Tail. Dog. Wag. Never mind that Berkeley researchers were winning Nobel prizes during the Joe Kapp era on the field, as well as during the early 1990s when a weak California team offered the prospect of a first win for a new Wisconsin coach called Barry Alvarez. (Didn't happen.) Nevertheless, the faculty has taken a courageous (by faculty senate standards) stand.
But with budget cuts fraying the seams of campus life — fewer classes, faculty furloughs, student fee hikes — tension has developed over the millions that go to support Cal's sporting life.
A non-binding resolution calling on the university to reduce the subsidy to athletics has passed the faculty senate. (No news on whether the senate also endorsed carrot juice and clean air.)

Another University Diaries post recommends a student column out of Mid-American BCS runner to cellar dweller Ball State.

In reality, the vast majority of students do not attend sporting events and even though they do not attend, they are still being charged. I attend one, maybe two, football games a year. I would be much better off buying the tickets for $20, or whatever price on game day, and not having to pay $877. I would save $837. Ball State is making me $837 worse off. Why are we all being charged for something only a few of us use?

Ball State’s intercollegiate sports department would operate in the red if not for the student subsidy. For 2008-09, the athletics department budgeted expenses were $14.3 million, two of the main revenue sources to cover these expenses were almost $8.9 million from student fees and $2.5 million from additional university support. Ticket sales were only expected to be less than one million. Intercollegiate sports, at least at Ball State, are not self-sustaining.

The column goes on to recommend that student fees be detailed in order that students can identify the toll athletics takes. On general principles, the recommendation is a good idea, in order that students be able also to identify the advocacy organizations, often featuring exotic politics, that also take their toll.

There's more on the peculiar economics of college sport, and the possibility of retrenchment, at Market Power.

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