College athletics are an industry where millions of dollars are spent to make a school’s teams better and more recognized by the majority of the general public. From weight room facilities to academic tutoring centers to larger stadiums with a larger seating capacity, spending on college sports is at an all time high and is being justified by what many claim to be the main benefit to a school as an educational institution: publicity.
Athletic departments act as one of the leading advertisers for the university. Publicity comes from television coverage, more television coverage comes from better teams, better teams are formed with better players, better players are attracted by better facilities, and better facilities are built by spending more money.
However, sports are not what are important to all students who believe much of the funding spent on athletics should actually be spent on academics to improve facilities and bring in highly qualified professors. Eddie Smith, the president of the Ohio University graduate student senate, said the university should be more worried about attracting scholars and not students who want to watch a decent football game once a week.
Some students, however, believe that the athletic department is doing a reputable job at it at publicizing the university. R.P. Kirtland, the president of the student section at Ohio University known as the OZone, says that he has seen the power athletics has and not just at OU.
Over the past years, Ohio University has spent on the average athlete well above what the university has spent on the average student, according to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. In 2008, Ohio University spent an average of $12,821 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student. When adjusted for cost inflation, the average increased 11-percent by 2013 to $14,183. At the same time the average athletic spending per athlete rose from $55,147 in 2008 to $63,895 in 2013, an increase of 16-percent.
In 2008, Ohio University was spending on average more per student than others in the Mid-American Conference by just under $800 per student, but by 2013 Ohio was spending just under $700 less per student than was being spent on the average student in the MAC, and more than $800 less than the average student at schools that participate at the Football Bowl Series level. Meanwhile, Ohio University has maintained a higher average per athlete than the average MAC athlete, but has continuously spent just over half as much on average per athlete than the average FBS school.
Ohio University has seen a rise in television coverage in the school’s major sports while at the same time has seen an increase in applicants and enrollees into the university. (Check out our interactive graphics on the possible connection between athletic exposure and enrollment.)
The correlation between amount of television air time and higher enrollment have caused some to believe that athletics are working in attracting more students to the university, but some do not believe that this should be the primary purpose of the athletic department.
Currently at Ohio University, students are charged a general fee, and part goes to the athletic department, but in return OU students are not charged when entering varsity athletic events.
One suggestion that has been given by those in favor of cutting university spending on athletics is to allow students to opt out of paying the portion of the fee that goes to athletics. Currently Ohio University allows students to opt out of paying for legal and healthcare services provided by the university. Doing something similar for athletics would bar those who do not pay from going to varsity athletic events without purchasing a ticket like the general public. Some see this as a compromise.
Others argue, though, that there are multiple services provided by a university that some students may never use but are still required to pay for.
Kirtland also said he thinks having an alternative form of entertainment for a school that is famous for fests and parties is a must.
College sports will always be important for some, while just as many students have a successful college life without ever watching one game. There may not be one answer that settles the debate of athletic budgeting. Small compromises to decide what spending is a necessity might just be the only way to settle the debate, sources and data suggest.
What do you think? Join Smith and Kirtland in their debate at #ccsportscost.