Is Athletics killing Academics?

Ferhat Guven over at Sports for Dorks alerted me to a Forbes article this morning discussing the University of Florida budget cuts to academics, and the increase in budget for athletics.  The title of the Forbes article plays right into the arena of debate focused on whether athletics is killing off academics in American universities.  Even as I listened to NPR this weekend, they were replaying an interview in which an individual went to visit the University of Florida, and decided not to go to college because they felt that the athletic facilities were bigger than the academics ones.

So this Forbes article entitled: “University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department, Increases Athletic Budgets. Hmm.” notes that the University of Florida announced it will save around $1.7 million a year by cutting its computer science department.  The author then mentions that athletics will increase their own budget by around $2 million to $99 million.  While the author is correct in noting the real “bad guys” in this story is the state government who have forced the University of Florida to make 30% cuts to their budget, it does still give that impression that athletics is really killing academics, and has people asking why not move the money from athletics to academics.

My response is that Florida athletics is already doing this.  In 2011, Florida increased ticket prices by 3%, and gained total revenue around $117 million.  What did they do with the surplus?  Well they reported a profit of around $6 million, but also gave $6 million back to the University which was being hit hard financially.

Athletic Director Jeremy Foley even stated:

“It’s not our money. It’s the university’s money. We’re part of the university, and we’re here to help.”

So in this case, Florida athletics is actually helping the University by pushing money from athletics back into academics.  Not all schools can afford to do this, though schools like LSU and Ohio State did give money back to their universities last year.  Ohio State athletics even gave $1 million for library improvements.

Maybe more big time athletic programs that are making profits should consider following the lead of these schools.


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