Doug Robinson: Athletic arms race is out of control

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • Michael Roche Provo, UT
    May 18, 2014 7:09 a.m.

    I wish I'd seen this article sooner. I agree 100%. When I went to USU, the administration told us that they needed to increase our fees to pay for sports programs because our sports program was our school's welcome mat and our marketing department. But our school is most famous for its excellent engineering and science programs. I can't help but wonder what notoriety and name recognition USU could get if, instead, it spent millions on scholarships, research, attracting renowned professors, and wining and dining recruiters at STEM-based companies to establish more internships for USU students. USU will never compete with the best of the best sports programs; its alumni base is too small and too passive about sports to donate as much as BYU's and the U's alumni. Keep USU sports teams, because they are fun, they add to the college experience, and they attract students; but let's stop trying to compete nationally with our sports teams. It's a much more ambitious plan, but competing nationally with our STEM programs is, in my opinion, better for USU students, better for Utah employers, better for taxpayers, and better for USU.

  • tdlawton Cottonwood Heights, UT
    May 14, 2014 8:57 p.m.

    As a Utah Alumnus I will just speak for Utah... Before anyone seriously claims Athletic Facilities comes before Academic Facilities I ask you: "Have you been on the UofU Campus in the last year?

    Yes a beautiful Football addition was made and yes they just broke ground on a Basketball facility...

    The U also just broke ground on a Student Life Center (Gym, rec center, pool) that serves all students. A new honors dorm is finishing (a stones throw from the Huntsman Center). A gorgeous new Business Building has recently opened, as has a new wing on the Chemistry Building, a new Law School Building is under construction and cranes are dotting the Medical Center and Engineering Complex...

    It would be completely wrong to claim that fancy new Athletic Facilities are being build while Academic Facilities are crumbling. The building boom on "the Hill" is almost universal. In fact the dollars spent on recent Academic Facilities dwarfs the spending on Athletic Facilities (as it should).

    Of course, why tell good news when you can right an "Our society is going to hades in a hand basket" story.

  • Jack of trades SLC, UT
    May 13, 2014 7:11 p.m.

    If it's funded by private money good for them. Utah's public high schools is where the real theft is occurring because they are having the same athletic arms race with citizen's taxes.

    Walk into just about any public high school from the small rural towns to the big city and you will find millions of wasted taxpayer dollars on the most unbelievable athletic facilities you've ever seen.

  • TDow Heber City, UT
    May 13, 2014 5:48 p.m.

    The main purpose of sports dollar investments by university athletic departments is to raise brand awareness and feelings of allegiance among potential students, students and alumni. I propose that bequests and potential bequests are significantly more valuable than the amount of advertising revenue that university sports teams bring in. Doubt it? Consider the amount of money held in trust by universities and then you'll begin to better understand why a $38M sports facility is a good long term investment in the capital campaign for a university. Go and research the amount of money held in trust by public universities in the PAC-12 (UCLA for example is $2.8B)... you then begin to understand the wisdom of a robust athletic department budget.

  • Hemlock Salt Lake City, UT
    May 13, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    State universities should consider a zero sum game on funding. The more that is given to athletic programs, which is not the primary purpose of a university, the less should be given by public funding. Public entertainment is not the purpose of higher education.

  • John S. Harvey Sandy, UT
    May 13, 2014 9:39 a.m.

    Unless the Legislature passes a law outlawing student fees supporting athletics the trend will continue. USU's students have the legal right to approve fees so USU's students could remove these fees over time, but historically they have voted to keep them. (No other state university in Utah has as strict of a legal obligation regarding student fees.) If the legislature did pass such a bill it could use a five or seven year phase-out period, letting the Universities know that the athletic departments would need to live off of ticket revenue, TV revenue, bowl revenue, and donations after the phase-out period.

    However, like much of life if Utah did this on its own it would mean Utah athletic programs would be significantly disadvantaged relative to everyone else they compete against. We could however spend more on actually educating our state's citizens (at least in the short run anyway - long run it might change donor behavior).

    Like it or not athletics are an integral part of most colleges and universities in the US. These programs are one of the public faces of the Universities, it is simply expected a "real" university will have them.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    May 13, 2014 9:36 a.m.

    As long as they're funded with private donations... who cares???

    These programs bring a LOT of money and prestige to Universities... probably more $$$ than it costs them to pay for the ongoing maintenance and utilities for these buildings. And the media attention the teams bring to the schools and the State... priceless.

    Without competitive sports programs... many people outside the State would not even know these schools exist...

    We want people from outside the State attending our Universities too... this is what brings diversity to the University experience. Besides... they pay higher tuition...

    IMO... As long as they are paying for themselves I have no problem. There are LOTS of college sports programs that do NOT pay their own expenses (Football and Basketball you complain about are not among them). They pretty much pay for the rest of the athletic programs at the school.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    May 13, 2014 8:32 a.m.

    We can't wonder why we fall behind in graduating engineers and scientists compared to other nations. This is where our priorities are, and it's harmful.

  • Esquire Springville, UT
    May 13, 2014 7:55 a.m.

    So much for the goal of these schools: education


  • liberal larry salt lake City, utah
    May 13, 2014 7:10 a.m.

    I feel it is important to donate to charitable, and educational institutions, but if the Univerity of Utah an afford to build a 120,000 square foot football facility, they obviously don't need any of my money.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    May 13, 2014 5:52 a.m.

    I love saturdays in fall. I love football. I even shockingly love watching Duke Football. But even here at Duke I think common sense has been lost somewhat. This year they announced that they are going to dig the stadium a little deeper and more seating closer to the field. Duke football can't fill up the stadium they now have. Duke can't accommodate the partaking now for those who do show up. Adding thousands of seats at this time seems foolish at best, and delusional at worst. The good news is this is all being done through private funds...

    ... but the flip side to this is Duke basketball is one of the most storied teams in the NCAA - and yet they play in a small, cramped, less than 10,000 seat arena - and have absolutely no issues getting quality recruits to the program, and on national TV every week.

    Facilites don't make great programs...

  • Tully Bascomb Logan, UT
    May 12, 2014 11:54 p.m.

    While I like to think I enjoy a good football or basketball game just as much as the next person, the claim so often made that athletics "bring" money to the university and enhance student education begs the following question:

    If university athletic programs are so "profitable," why do both my tuition AND student athletic fees increase (sometimes substantially) every year?

  • FDJ Logan, UT
    May 12, 2014 10:08 p.m.

    @ Stat1

    Not true at all. All Utah public college athletic departments rely on student fees and state funding to keep them a float.

    BYU claims to be all donor and athletic's revenue supported and maybe it is, but there is no transparency there. If they are, more power to them - they are one of the haves and should get to compete at that level. But, the department was built with tithing funds and it seems to be a priority for the church to have a visible sports program so I'm certain they'll put tithing to it again if needed.

    In any case, all public universities in Utah spend more than they bring in and it is unsustainable and a poor use of student and public funds.

    I would hope students would start coming to their senses. They could make an impact if they would stand up and say that the athletes are not 5X-10X more important to the university than the average student.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    May 12, 2014 8:26 p.m.

    A lot of money spent to be mediocre to the bottom of the standings in most of the sports...

  • stat1 Salt Lake City, UT
    May 12, 2014 8:23 p.m.

    They don't spend more on athletics (including facilities) than what comes in bc of athletics.

    And for that reason, none of the above bugs me.

  • FDJ Logan, UT
    May 12, 2014 8:04 p.m.

    So true, such misplaced priorities. There is no possible justification for it. This isn't new either, its been going on for at least 30 years - its just escalating faster.

    IMO the best thing that could happen is for the haves (those that actually make money on athletics without student fees or tax payer money - less than 50 schools) to go ahead and create their own division/league. The rest of the so-called D1 can then attempt to come back to reality.

    Probably never happen (the coming back to reality part), but I would like to see it. The have nots can still put a nice product out there because of the passion of the participants. It won't be as big time or make as much money, but it could do just fine.

  • runnerguy50 Virginia Beach, Va
    May 12, 2014 7:07 p.m.

    This article is long overdue. Utah State is a beautiful place but the desire of all fan bases including those in Logan to be a sports powerhouse is insane. Too many jock sniffers in this country.

  • Big 12 Call Yet? Ogden, UT
    May 12, 2014 7:01 p.m.

    For Utah state it's a stretch to justify, because Utah state will never be anything than a Mwc school barely bringing in a couple million from their conference.

    Meanwhile, money grows on trees when you are one of the big boys and we can and should build facilities that will entice recruits and donors.

    I continue to donate to the university BECAUSE of the football program.

    Go UTES!

  • Big 12 Call Yet? Ogden, UT
    May 12, 2014 6:57 p.m.

    The PAC 12 Utah utes bring in tons of money BECAUSE of the upgrades.

    Our investment in facilities is worth every dime. The university is one of the best things about our state and a source of pride for us all!

    We are better off financially BECAUSE of these thing.

    If we didnt keep up we would become another WAC school like the others in Utah.

    We made promises to keep up the faculties when we joined the PAC 12 and the PAC 12 in return guarantees tens of millions a year.

    Why do we spend so much?

    Because we can!

    Other schools wish they could build what we have

  • atlcoug Atlanta, GA
    May 12, 2014 6:49 p.m.

    Spot on, Doug. Where will all this end? I love college sports, but even a big fan like me can see this is crazy and out of control. But how does a school not join the arms race? The only way would be to drop sports completely, and I would hate to see that happen. There would be some down side to that as well, I believe.