In light of the whole mess with the University of California system’s financial situation, this morning I was reflecting on the role of athletic problems in the fiscal situation. None of this is to identify the Athletic Department as the sole or primary cause of the problem. Indeed, you will seldom find a bigger sports fan than I, so I’m not approaching this as one who is either ignorant of or dismissive of sports in general. But, considering the fact that a recent NCAA report on the revenues & expenses of intercollegiate athletics found that “Athletics departments are not necessarily run to be “profit centers” at most institutions,” and in fact that expenses for these departments typically exceed their revenue, why on earth haven’t more schools eliminated them? Universities see so much of everything else in purely accountant terms, why hasn’t it translated into its handling of athletics? Has it, and I’ve just not heard of it? Or, is it that the revenue lost pales in comparison to the revenue lost in undergraduate teaching?
This is not a pejorative question here — I’m genuinely curious. I can’t seriously believe that the absence of a basketball program at a smallish liberal arts school, for example, would keep too many students from attending. But maybe I’m underestimating the marketing angle.