The University of Hawaii at Manoa athletic program aired a plan last week for dealing with its chronic deficit, but the plan is already getting push back from at least one key constituency, the students.
Last Friday, the newspaper reported athletic director David Matlin’s budget presentation to the Board of Regents (“How the University of Hawai’i at M?noa Athletic Department wants to balance its budget“).
Matlin laid out a plan to raise over $14 million in new annual revenues over the next four years. He identified several potential sources.
UH Athletics’ Initiatives: $4.7 million
Student Fees’ Increase: $1.7 million
Direct Legislative Support: $5.5 million
Increased UH Institutional Support: $2.3 million
The proposal would double the current student athletic fee from $50 to 100 per semester. And the additional “institutional support” would also come from tuition dollars.
The story on Matlin’s proposal was posted at Kaleo.org last Friday. And on Monday, a Ka Leo editor penned this far less than enthusiastic reply with a clear message: “Dear UH Athletics, stay away from our wallets.”
Irene Fang, Ka Leo’s associate opinions editor, raised several key points, including one that nobody seems to want to talk about, “the student body’s apathy towards athletics.”
In a nutshell, Fang says, students are at UH to get an education and a college degree, and most aren’t affected by athletics.
At the same time, she argues, the financial reality is that Hawaii isn’t in a position to raise the kind of money needed to field a competitive football team. And schools that do don’t accomplish it with student money.
Mid-ranked University of Washington (UW) spent almost $30 million, as reported by PointAfter.com, which is roughly how much a university should spend on a competitive football team. However, there are no UW athletic fees. Reported by Husky Athletics, 97 percent of the athletic program is self-sustained, with the remaining three percent coming from the state. In fact, four of the top five NCAA ranked schools in Texas, Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State charge no student athletic fees, as reported by USA Today.
And given the stagnant or declining share of state revenues that have been allocated to the university system, and especially the flagship Manoa campus, in recent years, seeking additional ongoing revenues dedicated to support of the athletic program seems like a long shot, at best.
And that’s the biggest problem.
The earlier Ka Leo story quoted Matlin.
“We have no professional teams, so UH athletics is our NFL, NBA, and MLB,” he said. “When our teams are doing well and competing for national championships, the morale of the state is uplifted.”
You can’t continue to squeeze the university’s primary mission, education, in order to fund a competitive athletic program that is of primary interest to those outside the university.
So while the numbers in Matlin’s plan may add up, the politics of it don’t.