College athletic costs hard to handle

NCAA head says controlling costs harder than academic reform

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- NCAA President Myles Brand needed less than 18 months in the job to push through major academic reforms for college athletics.

Getting a handle on the spiraling costs of athletics will be much more difficult, Brand said Tuesday.

Brand also told a University of Iowa audience that he supports subsidizing the athletic department with money from a school's general fund -- provided the department is subject to the same governance and oversight as other areas in the university.

"Subsidy need not be a dirty word," Brand said. "It's how institutions in other divisions operate their athletic programs and, more importantly, it's how other programs on Division I campuses are funded.


"In fact, if every program had to operate on its own (funding), most universities would lack philosophy and physics departments."

Brand said the academic reform package the NCAA approved in April came about because the presidents got involved. He said the same type of involvement by presidents is needed to control costs because that can't be legislated nationally.

A recent NCAA study showed that spending more on athletics doesn't necessarily ensure success, Brand said. Yet he said the upward spiral continues even as some revenue streams, TV contracts in particular, aren't increasing at the rates they did in the past.

"The rate of growth in their budgets is not sustainable," Brand said.

Critics of athletic spending in Iowa and elsewhere have complained that budgets for athletics are growing faster than budgets for the general university. Brand said that cannot be allowed to continue.

If nothing is done, Brand said what he calls a "drift toward professionalism" would continue. He could see schools fielding professional football and basketball teams and nothing else.

"So many people believe in the value of college athletics," he said. "I'm really optimistic we'll make some progress. If I'm wrong, I can tell you that if we meet again here in 10 years, we won't recognize intercollegiate sports."

A former university president himself, Brand said it will take a "critical mass" of university presidents working on a national level to contain costs.


"This part of the athletic reform movement will be much more difficult than academic reform," Brand said. "The problem is complicated because it must be accomplished institution by institution. This will be hard work.

"But I have every confidence that with presidential leadership both locally and nationally, we will do what must be done."

Brand said reform could start with making the athletic director a member of the university's cabinet, which would enable the athletic and academic sides to better understand each other's role. Budget and decision-making processes used for the general university also should apply to athletics, he said.

"To the extent that academic budgets are made transparent for faculty members, it should be the same for athletics," Brand said.

Athletic director Bob Bowlsby said that already is the case at Iowa.

"I don't know that there's any place on campus that's more transparent than we are," Bowlsby said. "We're as highly scrutinized as any department or element of the campus. Our budget figures starting out the year and ending the year are all subject to public review. I think there's a lot of the transparency that he advocated built into the system."

Brand said he does not believe in the notion that athletic departments should be self-sustaining and operate without university help. When one member of the audience questioned the lucrative apparel contracts for coaches, Brand said athletic departments have been forced to go that route to raise money.

With financial assistance from the university, that might not be necessary, he said.


"It's unrealistic to pressure the vast majority of athletic departments to become self-sufficient and to do without a general fund subsidy," he said.

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