Eliminate Athletics Department

These days, it seems that everyone is having a difficult time financially, including the University of Minnesota. HereâÄôs an idea, sure to be largely unpopular, that could potentially save the University millions: I propose that the elimination of the athletics department at the University will help us overcome the financial hardships we will face in the near future. Athletics has little, if anything, to do with the primary focus of the University and academics. I have heard only specious arguments regarding this relationship, which is disconcerting, since the arguments usually come from the mouths of political leaders or the UniversityâÄôs bureaucratic elite. Regardless, athletics has been, and continues to be, a large expenditure for the University. In University vernacular, the athletics department pays for itself, so we shouldnâÄôt question its value. Valuable though it may be, according to the 2004-06 âÄúNCAA Revenues and Expenses of Division I Intercollegiate Athletics Programs Report âÄú released this spring by the NCAA, only a small percent of all Division I teams earned a profit between 2004 and 2006. This study also reports that the overall losses incurred increased significantly during that time. I managed to find University athletics financial data, as reported to the NCAA for the 2004-05 school year, which states that it lost about $600,000 overall that season. According to these data, the University gave athletics $7.5 million in unrestricted funds that season, which included state funds. Athletics counted this figure as revenue. In terms of self-sufficiency, there is a substantial difference between generated revenue and allocated revenue; the latter just moves money from pocket to pocket. The NCAA report indicates that athletics at schools like the University are only about 75 percent self-sufficient. If the athletics department were truly self-sufficient, why would it require a $7.5 million subsidy from the University? If we take out the $7.5 million in unrestricted funds, it brings athleticsâÄô total loss at about $8 million, just for that season. Would it violate NCAA rules to wager that University athletics has been in the red for many more seasons than just 2004-05? Though I readily admit that this plan is not likely to be adopted, let alone be taken seriously, something drastic must happen in order to get us out of financial dire straits. Perhaps a good compromise would be a little more transparency about the UniversityâÄôs budgets âÄî athletics, in particular. In light of the current financial crisis, I think itâÄôs time to test the mettle of our leaders at the University and in the athletics department. Good leaders donâÄôt need to hide the truth. Russell Ericson University student