Apparently playing guarantee games at power conference stadiums isn't enough to keep the Mid-American Conference in the good graces of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, even when the school buying the win takes the loss.

It's amateur sport.  It has nothing to do with money.  Except when it does.
A 2018 NCAA audit revealed NIU Athletics bought back 56,345 football tickets totalling $273,619 for the 2017 season to comply with NCAA attendance requirements. While the Northern Star Editorial Board realizes NIU Athletics is at the mercy of the NCAA attendance requirements to maintain Division I status, we disagree with where the funds to complete the internal purchase were drawn from.

Senior Associate Athletics Director Debra Boughton confirmed a portion of the funds that went to buying back tickets came from the NIU Foundation, an organization that invests donations back into the university community. We believe taking funds away from potential scholarships provided to the entire NIU community to service one sport in the athletic department is irresponsible.
The Foundation does fund raising for a variety of projects, and donors are free to specify restrictions on their gifts, such as "for athletics" or "for STEM Outreach" or "for a string quartet."  Or donors can write checks without restriction.

Perhaps Foundation managers calculated that staying in Division I is a more productive use of moneys specified "for athletics" augmented as necessary by unrestricted funds.

That said, the editorial writers at The Northern Star understand opportunity cost.
When someone donates to the NIU Foundation, they are donating under the impression their money will be spent to “develop, support and encourage a culture of giving throughout the NIU community that will allow it to flourish and accomplish NIU’s goal of becoming the most student-centered public research university in the Midwest,” according to the NIU Foundation’s website. Donors believe they are funding scholarships, better equipment, updated facilities and student development opportunities; their endowments should not be used to buy back empty stadium seats.
Star reporters, Foundation managers, and donors all have their work to do.  Arguably the point of spending money to remain in Division I is to maintain the university's visibility.  Sadly, the increased visibility is mostly in the wrong places as far as student development is concerned.

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