Monday, October 01, 2007

Bank 'Em Horns!

When one sees a headline like "The Longhorn Economy" splayed across the front of the Sunday Statesman, it's natural to assume you're about to read a rah-rah puff piece about how great UT football games are for our local economy.

As it turns out, Eric Dexheimer's series about the engorged budget of UT's athletics department is required reading for anyone who cares about higher education in Texas. Set against the backdrop of rising tuition and student services fees, dwindling need-based financial aid opportunities and student loans that take forever to pay off, it's hard not to be sickened by how much money is being thrown around by the Burnt Orange Brass ($107.6 million this year).

Although UT's athletic program does make money, the school's role as pacesetter among programs forces the vast majority of college sports programs that don't make money to mortgage their futures in the name of remaining competitive. For example, four out of every 10 dollars of Texas Tech's current debt service now goes to pay off new and refurbished sports facilities.

Meanwhile, our tax code rewards well-heeled alumni with hefty deductions for donations to athletic programs. Believe it or not, 80 percent of the donations made to university athletic foundations to secure luxury box rentals and prime season tickets can be written off.

Aside from funneling donations away from academics, allowing deductions on luxury box rentals encourages wasteful, extravagant spending of Other People's Money under the phony guise of "doing business." The whole system stands as yet another indictment of our depraved sense of priorities in this country.

All this for a football team that can't even beat Kansas State!


Dan said...

Thanks for bringing this article to my attention.

I have to admit I'm not much of an expert on character and discipline, but it seems like those lessons could be taught on an annual budget that only ran to eight figures.

Kate Harrington said...

Well said, Greg, that's a good summary of those articles. It goes without saying I'm often underwhelmed with the Statesman's "in-depth" coverage of local news, but this piece impressed me. I only wish the reporter had fleshed out the points he made about how this affects the academic side of higher ed.