Op-Ed: Over-Spending on College Sports is a Matter of Priorities

Over the last two years, UC Berkeley has spent more money propping up Intercollegiate Athletics than it obtained from the recent 9.6 percent student tuition fee increase.

By Brian Barsky, Professor of Computer Science at UC Berkeley

Berkeley Patch .  Quoting the "deficit" in isolation is rather meaningless because this ignores subsidies which are the primary cost to the campus of IA. 

The "deficit" is only the amount that the campus enables IA to exceed it subsidies. For each of the last two years, the Berkeley campus reported to the NCAA that IA was subsidized by $9-$10 million annually from the campus administration plus another $2-$3 million per year from student fees. What is meaningful is the actual annual cost to the campus to enable IA to spend much more than it generates, and that cost comes in the form of both direct subsidies and deficit spending.

The UC Berkeley Academic Senate resolution of Nov. 2009 recommended that the Chancellor enforce the existing UC policy that Intercollegiate Athletics be self-supporting (like parking and student residences), rather than continue enabling IA to overspend what it generates every year; however, that recommendation has not been followed. 

Over these last two years, the campus has spent more propping up IA than what it obtained from the recent 9.6 percent student tuition fee increase. Ultimately, it is a matter of priorities, and students may wish to reflect on how these priorities directly affect their pocketbooks. 

Beyond these annual operating costs, there is an even larger concern regarding the university's billion dollar commitment in construction costs and interest to cover the debt for the reconstruction of the stadium using borrowed funds.  Interested Patch readers may read the recent New York Times article about this issue.

Prof. Barsky was one of eight UC Berkeley faculty members to author a 2009 resolution recommending the campus end all funding to intercollegiate athletics. 

Do you have an opinion about something published on Berkeley Patch? Email the editor at berkeley@patch.com.

Poll: Is Cal Athletics "Dumbing Down" UC Berkeley? .

Tim Q. Cannon October 10, 2011 at 08:26 PM
I'm certain that the good prof is in full favor of all the millions in subsidies, buildings and equipment that go to academics, over and above what the state and students provide in terms of revenue. It's a simple "us versus them" attitude, which gets pretty tiresome. Athletics provide immeasurable benefit to Cal. A few million in subsidies is a drop in the bucket in comparison when you look at the facilities they build for various academic endeavors. Barsky is just another annoying barking dog who needs a muzzle. Go Bears!
sam October 10, 2011 at 09:05 PM
Subsidies to academics make sense. UC is a University, not a farm team for the NFL. People always talk about the benefits of high-powered college sports, with no data to back it up. It's just wishful thinking by people who are sports fans. There are plenty of professional teams to watch. Spending on big-time college sports has gotten way out of hand (while spending for physical education that encourages all students to be physically fit has been cut dramatically) and UC should be the first to lead the way in saying "enough."
Tim Q. Cannon October 10, 2011 at 09:16 PM
Sam (no last name), it appears that you either have blinders on, or never knew anyone who benefited from college athletics. It builds important life skills, like teamwork, dedication, sacrifice for a larger goal, discipline, and builds character as well as helps form long term friendships. A small fraction of kids who do sports go on to the pros...the remainder wouldn't trade the experience for the world. As far as "data" there's plenty out there. Ask around if you really care.
hank gehman October 11, 2011 at 05:58 AM
This jabering about how big time football serves the "student athelte" is just a transparent red herring. The players are brought here to perform on the field and bring in the money-the are semi-pros. Just ask them. The AD prepares a list of easy courses and sympathetic profs for them to choose from. Kevin Reilly said on TV that he only takes two courses in the fall semesters. For all the booster bluster they have failed to step up and fund the new stadium. Paying for the stadium will end up coming out of campus funds. Campus subsidies will have to increase and further choke education at Cal.
Tim Q. Cannon October 11, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Football is just one sport...and yes, it's easy to bash them and their $2M coach, but they do bring in the revenue for many other sports. I'm talking about the other 90-95% of the students who participate in IC sports who know they will never go on to professional sports. If you want to look for other sources of how "choking education" occurs, pay attention every time some prof gets lured away and how much they pay him to stay...they're just as greedy as the next guy.
Emily Henry (Editor) October 12, 2011 at 02:34 AM
Tim — While I encourage you to contribute to the conversation in a productive and polite manner, Berkeley Patch does not condone personal attacks (such as the penultimate sentence above and the first sentence in your response to "Sam"). This can alienate people and shut down what would otherwise be interesting and enlightening conversation. I hope that in the future you will help keep the atmosphere cordial and the dialogue flowing so that others can weigh in without fear of retribution. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions: emily.henry@patch.com. Thank you, Emily Henry Editor
Tim Q. Cannon October 12, 2011 at 05:11 AM
Emily....I got 3..(three) emails with your concerns over my pointed comments....seems a little overboard..oh..excuse me..is that too extreme for you? My comments are frank and honest but I think those involved can take it and probably have heard worse. If you need a character witness, I can provide a few.
Emily Henry (Editor) October 12, 2011 at 04:42 PM
I apologize for the multiple emails, which were caused by a technical glitch. As I said, please email me if you wish to discuss this further.
Brian Barsky October 12, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Rebuttals are weakened when they resort to ad hominem attacks in lieu of providing accurate credible facts. Regarding the unsubstantiated claim that "Athletics provide immeasurable benefit to Cal. A few million in subsidies is a drop in the bucket in comparison when you look at the facilities they build for various academic endeavors", let's stick to the facts: (1) Intercollegiate Athletics has provided no facilities for academic endeavors. (2) The new $150 million "Student-Athlete High Performance Center" restricts access to only 450 of 35,000 students, thereby excluding 99% of the students from using it. (3) Far from being a "drop in the bucket," the cost of the stadium project is far more than that of any building project for "academic endeavors" ever undertaken on the Berkeley campus. To reiterate: Ultimately, it is a matter of priorities.
Tim Q. Cannon October 12, 2011 at 10:51 PM
I'm not sure under which pile of books Mr. Barsky is hiding, but if he came out of his cubicle long enough to look around, he might see dozens of newer buildings around campus, built at great expense ... all dedicated to higher learning, and for the benefit of all students. I don't begrudge professors from having the best facilities, but it's painfully obvious that some professors really resent student athletes, and consider them less than worthy of the facilities that Cal may supply. Makes you wonder. And if you want stats, I'm sure there are thousands of testimonials available from student atheletes whose lives benefitted from the experience. Yes, it's a matter of priorities: I say let's have both.
Brian Barsky October 14, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Is it possible to engage in rational discourse based on facts instead of resorting to hurling juvenile personal attacks? I am acutely aware of the building projects on campus and I don't think that any academic building reached the $100 million mark in construction costs. But the ribbon was cut yesterday on the $153 million Student-Athlete High Performance Center which osculates the CMS. Adding the $321 million cost of renovating the CMS yields total construction costs for the stadium project that are FIVE times as much as those for any academic building project. (This is not including interest which would bring the total commitment for the stadium project to a billion dollars.) These are the details substantiating my previous statement that the cost of the stadium project far exceeds that of any academic building project on the Berkeley campus.


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