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The Truth About CU Athletic Spending

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  • The Truth About CU Athletic Spending

    I'll warn you this article is a long read, but I thought that it cleared up many misconceptions about CU's athletic dept. Maybe some of the politicians and in-state donors will get behind athletics at CU in the future, instead of shunning them.

    Woelk: Here's the truth about CU's athletic spending
    April 5, 2006

    Over the years, I've watched with amusement as some of my editorial page colleagues have taken broadside shots at college athletics in general and the University of Colorado in particular.

    I've chuckled as they've stamped their feet, and laughed as they've thrown hissy fits while sanctimoniously decrying what has undeniably become a big business.

    For the most part, I've never had the urge to respond or rebut. Jealousy is an ugly thing, and publicly teasing them about it wouldn't make the situation any better.

    Simply, I've avoided making them look foolish because they usually do a fine job of that on their own.

    But lately, they've gotten their underwear all bunched up while misrepresenting the truth at the same time — and that means it's time to draw the line. When they start using statistics to make you believe something that simply isn't true, the record must be set straight.

    Not that my pals over in the think-tank department of the newspaper would tell an outright lie.

    But they might give you some numbers that would convince you to come to conclusions that are wrong.

    Whether that's a case of ignorance, laziness, or deception, I'm not sure — but what's clear is that the truth is being greatly misrepresented:

    Let's take it from the top:

    The number: Between 1986 and 2003, CU athletics spending grew 1.6 times faster than the general fund.

    Perception: My pals want you to believe that the university spends more and more money every year on athletics.

    The truth: Exactly the opposite.

    Over the past 15 years, public-supported funding for the athletic department has decreased substantially.

    In 1989-90, the CU athletic department received approximately $1.4 million in student fees, plus about $3.2 million in other public-supported funding (the president's office, the CCHE and other sources).

    That's $4.6 million of publicly funded support.

    In 2004-05, the athletic department received approximately $1.4 million in student fees (no change in 15 years), and about $1.6 million in university support. That's $3 million — or a $1.6 million decrease in 15 years.

    So how do my friends get away with saying athletics spending has grown faster than the general fund?

    Because it's true — but not the way they portray it.

    Actually, revenue has also grown at that rate, and thus, so has department spending — but it's not spending by the university, which my friends always fail to mention.

    It's called business. When the department makes more money, it invests more money. And, unlike just about every other department under the university umbrella, the athletic department must be run as a business.

    But while my friends talk about an increase in spending, they don't bother to mention the decrease in public funding. They want you to believe the two are the same. They have never, ever written that public funding for CU athletics has declined over the last 15 years. That would destroy their entire thesis.

    Instead, they want to create the perception that the regents are spending more of your tax dollars every year on athletics — when the exact opposite is true.

    (Note: My friends are right about one thing. Shoddy mismanagement by the last regime the last few years did indeed put the athletic department in debt. But that's money that will be repaid by the athletic department, not by state money).

    The number: Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn makes $58,000 more than the average dean and 6.3 times more than the average full-time CU instructor.

    The perception: CU should quit spending money on athletic directors and coaches and put that money toward professors' and deans' salaries.

    The truth: The money being paid to Mike Bohn — and Dan Hawkins, Ricardo Patton, Kathy McConnell-Miller and every other coach at CU — isn't university money.

    If the athletic department dissolved today, virtually none of that money being paid to coaches and administrators would be available to the university. That money is athletic department revenue — not public funding.

    If athletics go away, so does the money.

    The statement: "Then there's the football coach's salary, which attains stratospheric levels of obscenity."

    The perception: If Hawkins didn't make so much money, CU could have paid Nobel winner Carl Wieman more, and he wouldn't have gone to Canada.

    The truth: If Hawkins were being paid $1 per year, it would not mean another nickel for Wieman. Neither would it mean another nickel for Norlin Library, the music school or Ward Churchill.

    Statement: "The regents insist they don't over-emphasize athletics. But their words cannot obscure their deeds."

    Fact: These numbers come courtesy of a reader:

    UCLA, which just finished second in the NCAA men's basketball tournament and played in a major bowl game last season, has won 97 total NCAA team championships. UCLA also has won nine Nobel prizes, including five on its current faculty, and four UCLA alumni have won Nobels.

    Stanford, meanwhile, has 91 NCAA team championships — and 17 living Nobel winners and six deceased.

    Are those schools overemphasizing athletics at the cost of academia?

    No — merely proving that the two can not only co-exist, but can succeed in harmony.

    Now a few other facts:

    • Every year, the CU athletic department pays a General Administration Infrastructure Recharge "tax" back to the university. It amounts to about five percent of every dollar of revenue earned by the department. In 2004-05, that number was a little more than $1 million.

    Subtract that $1 million from the $3 million the athletic department received last year in university support, and the net public support is approximately $2 million.

    And what's the return for the university on that $2 million investment in athletics?

    • The athletic department provides approximately 200 full scholarships every year. That averages out to about $10,000 per student.

    But the actual cost of a full ride through CU — factoring in the percentage of out-of-state students — is about $22,000 per year.

    The athletic department is required to pay full tuition for every one of its athletes.

    Thus, the university gives the athletic department about $2 million in support. In return, the athletic department pays the university approximately $4.4 million in scholarship payments.

    It makes up the difference with its revenue.

    Or, look at it this way: For that same $2 million to any other department — departments that aren't required to be run as businesses — CU could provide about 90 full-ride scholarships. Instead, CU gets 200 tuition-paying students.

    That's a bad deal?

    • What kind of students does the university get for that bargain price? According to the chancellor's office, CU student athletes have a higher grade point average and a higher graduation rate than the general student populace. Again: this is bad?

    • Lack of diversity is a continual problem at CU. Last year, of the approximate 400 students of color at the school, about 90 of them were student-athletes. Anyone care to suggest a better way to increase diversity?

    • Every year, approximately 100 students take part in a variety of student-aid and work-study programs with the athletic department. They include student trainers, tutors and other jobs within the department. Those students' majors range from pre-med to education to business to journalism and more. All are getting on-the-job training via the athletic department — opportunities that aren't available anywhere else on campus.

    There are, of course, other benefits. The Boulder economy no doubt gets a significant boost from athletics. Hotels, restaurants and concessions suppliers make money because of athletics. Then there are the hundreds of people who do everything from work security to sell hot-dogs and sodas at games, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    Of course, you could take that $2 million and spread it around the campus.

    That $2 million — divided equally among a $1 billion budget — might mean an extra $10 or $20 per year for every professor and administrator.

    Meanwhile, you'd have fewer minority students, no women's sports, and approximately 120 fewer scholarships to be awarded to deserving kids. There would also be no national marketing brand and no national name recognition, as well as a significant negative impact on the local economy.

    Bottom line? CU's support for its athletic department is actually far less than many schools — schools that also have great academics (North Carolina, Michigan, Texas, UCLA, Cal and Virginia, just to name a few). While other schools increase their support each year, CU has been decreasing its support.

    If CU wants to be a top-flight school — such as Cal, Michigan, Texas, UCLA, etc. — the school must indeed increase its athletic funding to get to that point. It's what Mike Bohn would like to see happen, and if you believe that CU should be good in everything it does, you'll agree.

    But to say CU currently over-emphasizes athletics is a gross exaggeration.

    To insinuate that CU increases its spending on its athletic department every year is a lie.

    Now, you have the facts — and now, I'm guessing my editorial page buddies will have a response to this. Bully for them.

    But from now on, I'm hoping they'll represent all the facts — not just the ones that paint a false picture and leave readers misinformed.

    That's ignorance, laziness or deception — and I can't believe my think-tank pals would stoop that low.

  • #2
    I had to crunch the previous post down to stay under the character limit... The article is available under the sports section at by Neil Woelk. But you need a membership, so I figured I'd post the whole thing here.


    • #3
      Thanks for the article, I finally got up to read this but it was worth it... I knew something was fishy about saying our school doesn't make money... That does clear up a lot of things..

      btw, are you going to the Spring Game? I'll be there rain or shine!


      GO CU!!!
      fight u dwn the must win.. fight fight fr knows no defet! so roll up the mighty score, Never Give in!!...shouler to shulder we will FIGHT..FIGHT ... FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!


      • #4
        I'm glad you found the time to read the article 303, it's actually very informative if you aren't scared away by the size of it...

        As far as the spring game goes, I don't think I'm gonna make it... It's on saturday afternoon if I'm not mistaken, and I am going under the knife on Friday-- (Getting my wisdom teeth out), so I'll probably be laid up in bed... KOA is actually going to broadcast the game though, so maybe I'll tune it in on the radio.


        • #5
          wow....nobody will ever waste their time reading that. i lasted....well, i didn't even start.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Buff_bronc_fan
            I'm glad you found the time to read the article 303, it's actually very informative if you aren't scared away by the size of it...

            As far as the spring game goes, I don't think I'm gonna make it... It's on saturday afternoon if I'm not mistaken, and I am going under the knife on Friday-- (Getting my wisdom teeth out), so I'll probably be laid up in bed... KOA is actually going to broadcast the game though, so maybe I'll tune it in on the radio.
            Ouch, been there before...its really not that bad, I was awake the whole time..LOL

            Bummer you can't make it to the game, but I'm glad they're giving some radio for it..

            btw, did anybody check out the espn sports poll?

            Visit ESPN for NCAA live scores, video highlights and latest news. Stream exclusive college football games on ESPN+ and play College Pick'em.

            Which of these teams has the best shot at the Big 12 crown in 2006?

            Texas Tech
            Texas A&M
            Texas Tech


            Where's the Respect? Let's go out and EARN IT!!
            fight u dwn the must win.. fight fight fr knows no defet! so roll up the mighty score, Never Give in!!...shouler to shulder we will FIGHT..FIGHT ... FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!!