Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ferlic's Dream: Downsized Athletics

At yesterday's Douglas County Republican Pancake Feed, University of Nebraska regent Randolph Ferlic was interviewed by KKAR radio's Steve Brown about the controversy over the future of UNO athletics. Ferlic responded by indicated that if he had the power, he'd prefer to downsize college athletics. Not just at UNO, but rather at Nebraska-Lincoln. He wistfully (and erroneously) referred to the size of the Husker athletic budget, implying that there were better uses for the funds.

On one hand, he is partially correct. The $55 million (not $75 million, as Ferlic claimed) Husker athletic department budget (for 2004-05) would certainly be beneficial if reallocated to other parts of the University system. Improved research, improved salaries for faculty, improved facilities: all could benefit.

Problem with that idea is that it's not even a realistic idea. If college sports were to be disbanded or downsized, the income received by the University would immediately be reduced. Would boosters transfer their donations from the athletic department to other parts of the university? Probably not, especially if the donation was made in the hopes of getting football tickets. Would ticket sales continue at their present level? Probably not either. (Who would pay $55 for an intramural football game?) What about TV revenue? Not likely either.

When you consider the funds that get recirculated back to academic programs ($7 million in scholarships that in turn go back to the University), there's a good chance that UNL would be in worse shape financially if sports were downsized. Especially if you factor in the free publicity they get. Remember Tommy Lee?

I would imagine that even Ferlic probably realizes that this isn't realistic. The comments on the radio could easily be dismissed as early morning holiday ramblings.

The real problem with this statement is the underlying thought process of someone who UNO is likely going to need approval from if they choose to go division 1. A regent who is on record as saying that college sports are already too big as they are is going to be a tough sell for upsizing Maverick athletics.

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