by Mike Coffey
Once again, I’m reminded of the bass-ackwards way in which Notre Dame funds its athletics programs via an email fowarded to me today.
ND had $11.2 million in cash (after expenses) from the Fiesta Bowl bid that the football team earned last season. Here’s how the money was spent:
- $1.5m for retrospective purchases for the Library and other Library needs
- $1m to endow job placement services for spousal hires
- $2.7m for Jordan Hall equipment
- $2m to endow undergraduate need-based financial aid
- $2m to endow graduate student financial aid
- $1m to endow ten new undergraduate summer research stipends
- $500k towards architecture graduate student financial aid
- $500k towards MBA student financial aid
Setting aside for a moment (a) the ridiculous expenditure on “job placement services for spousal hires”, (b) the spending of the same amount of money on graduate student financial aid endowment as undergrad endowment even though there are four times as many undergrads, not to mention the curious lack of the word “need-based” in any financial aid line items other than undergrad, (c) the expenditure on Jordan Hall equipment, a project that was supposed to be donations-driven, and (d) the departure of these windfalls thanks to the recent BCS negotiations (all of which could be blog entries in and of themselves), I can’t help but notice not one dime of this surplus earned by an athletic team was reinvested into athletic endevors, while some sports are going hat-in-hand to University benefactors looking for the basic tools they need to succeed.
To be fair, the $11.2m was after what was deducted for bowl expenses and what was called “other athletic department allocations”. Based on that math, out of $14.5m paid for the bowl appearance, $3.3m was spent on those bowl and AD expenses. Given that schools have either turned down or severely cut back on expenses when travelling to bowls that pay less than $2m, it’s a logical assumption that’s what was spent by ND to take the team/band/etc. to Tempe. That means $1.3m out of $12.5 — ten percent of the total — of athletics-earned money was actually reinvested into athletics.
Any businessman will tell you if you only reinvest ten percent of your money into your business, your business will most likely fail.
I’m not advocating 100 percent reinvestment and the creation of some kind of athletic fiefdom. I think it’s excellent and appropriate that the money earned in athletics is invested to help the school — after all, the purpose of a school is to educate. I just think it’s equally wrong for a such a low percentage of reinvestment, especially when Notre Dame isn’t exactly known to spend its windfalls wisely (see: Center, Performing Arts).
Let’s say Notre Dame implemented a 25 percent reinvestiment policy for moneys earned by the sports teams after expenses. That still leaves three dollars for every four for the University at large. 25 percent of $12.5m is $3,125,000, which would be a nice contribution to the facilities upgrade funding. Granted, professor’s spouses would have to find their own jobs (which I’m sure is a bewildering prospect in a job market the size of South Bend’s) and there’d be 10 fewer “endowed undergraduate summer research stipends”, but I think an improvement to the second-most used building on campus would justify that.
Besides, those strike me as the kinds of things donations should cover. Or so I’ve been told.
I’ve read estimates that ND clears up to $48m per year from football. Assuming that’s true, 25 percent of that for one season would pay for just about every athletics capital improvement plan outside of the Joyce Center redo. And that’s just one season.
In his email detailing the Fiesta Bowl expenditures, Fr. Jenkins said Notre Dame was “extremely fortunate to have at Notre Dame a spirit of cooperation and mutual support between our athletics department and the academy.” Sorry, but I don’t think that looks mutual at all. Athletics is funding a lot of things that look pretty specious, while they beg for infrastructure and salary improvements that would help them bring in even more money.
Businesses that are successful aren’t used as cash cows. They’re nurtured so they can continue to provide for the community. Feeding our cow cheap oats is not the way to go here.
Note: I’ve closed comments on this entry, feel free to reply to my “Mooo part Twooo” post