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Colleges must cut backon athletics programs

The NCAA is considering expanding its men’s postseason basketball tournament from 65 to 96 teams, so clearly the association is profiting off college sports. Unfortunately, most universities cannot make the same claim.

Many believe that athletics departments earn a lot of money for their universities, making them worthwhile investments – even during a recession. A 2006 survey sponsored by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics found that 78 percent of Americans believe that athletic programs are profitable.

The truth is most major athletics programs operate on a deficit. Student fees and other direct subsidies are often the only things keeping the programs on their feet, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

It is time for U.S. schools to reassess their priorities. No longer is it reasonable for athletics departments to suck a portion of the schools’ money and pay coaches millions of dollars while faculties face furloughs and layoffs and students face tuition hikes.

In the 2007-08 academic year, nearly 80 percent of major athletics programs reported deficits, with an average loss of $9.9 million, according to the NCAA.

Virtually all universities subsidize their athletics departments to some extent, which can cost more than $11 million, according to the Knight Commission’s report “College Sports 101,” which used NCAA data.

The report found that only 20 to 30 athletics programs in any given year can make enough revenue to cover operating costs.

Proponents of continued athletics spending may argue that deficits and losses will pay off if it means a university can make it to the top. Take the University of Florida for example. Its top-notch football and basketball teams have generated enough profit that the University Athletic Association gives money to UF annually.

In reality, UF is merely an exception – a big fish in a small monetary pond. No matter how much money a university pours into its sports teams, there is no guarantee it will ever reach the same level. It takes a lot more than just funding to make a great athletics department.

The Knight Commission report said the problem extends beyond the current recession. Even for schools with small budgets, expenditures have been rising faster than revenue, and at many institutions, spending on athletics is rising faster than spending on academics.

Some colleges have already cut programs or moved to less competitive divisions to save money. Some have even cut football.

Even though many schools see their football team as an integral part of their identity and advertising, it is by far the most expensive sport. An NCAA report said that at 44 percent of major football colleges, football-generated revenue can’t even cover the sport’s operating cost.

It is time for schools struggling in this time to consider giving less money to athletics programs – at least until the recession ends.