20.3.18

THAT FRONT PORCH IS SHOP-WORN.

Athletics directors and unthinking college presidents will refer to the sports programs as the "front porch" of the university.  Competing to have the spiffiest front porch is participating in a positional arms race and Eastern Michigan has been to the athletics arms race as the old Soviet Union was to the nuclear arms race for a long time.  But disarmament is difficult.  "In an effort to stem some of their budget woes, Eastern Michigan University has announced its decision to cut four sports from their athletics program at the end of the 2018 spring athletic season." That's $2.4 million not spent, but students are likely going to be on the hook for athletic fees (for games they opt not to attend) all the same.

The old Soviet Union sort of went out of business, with Vladimir Putin doing what he can to become the next iteration of Alexander III or Josef Stalin.  It's apparently harder for Eastern Michigan.
In order to maintain Division I status with the NCAA, they had to keep 16 spots. In order to remain full membership in the MAC, they had to keep football, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. So I can understand why those sports were not cut.

Some people have suggested that Eastern Michigan drop football. I can say with some degree of certainty, that is not going to happen. While football is probably the biggest cost, it is also the biggest generator of revenue for the athletics department. They might be able to trim the budget though but I’m not sure that would save the above programs.
That, dear reader, is why sports pundits ought to understand economics. If your "biggest generator of revenue" doesn't cover that "biggest cost" you're better off shy of the costs and the revenues, particularly, as the essay notes, with an athletics operating deficit of some $27 million per year. And Wisconsin-Green Bay could use some competition in women's basketball.

The article notes Buffalo (the old State University of New York at Buffalo) also confronting its athletics costs.  "In April 2017, Buffalo announced it would cut four varsity sports affecting 120 athletes, including its incredibly successful men’s soccer and women’s rowing programs, in an effort to save $2 million." Buffalo is only recent to Division I football, in the Mid-American, and they're notorious for generating revenue helping other teams become bowl-eligible.

At Eastern Michigan, the sports restructuring will accompany an academic reduction.  "The cut in athletics is linked to a university-wide initiative which is expected to attempt to make up a projected $4.5-to-5.5 million gap in the budget. That initiative is expected to eliminate 42 faculty jobs and lay off 17 others."  That's going to affect more than 133 students.

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