The Intercollegiate Athletics Committee (IAC) is working toward getting a financial donation from the athletic department to help subsidize academics, but efforts thus far have been stifled.
The IAC is a longstanding committee of the University Senate that advises the athletic department and any policy or program within athletics, including the budget. The goal of the IAC is to protect the academic integrity of student-athletes and the University’s intercollegiate athletics program.
“Some of the athletic decisions that are made are in conflict with our academic mission and goal,” IAC Chair Nathan Tublitz said. “We have conversations with the athletic department to encourage them to put academics first.”
From 2001 to 2004, Tublitz and former University President Dave Frohnmayer established a task force to report on issues including governance, commercialization and student-athlete opportunities. These reports made a number of recommendations to the athletic department and the administration, but the most important one according to the committee was on the athletic department giving a financial contribution to the academic side.
“When the committee met in 2004 we had a number of intense conversations that led to an agreement that this would happen,” Tublitz said.
The University Senate, along with former athletic director Bill Moos and President Frohnmayer, signed an agreement to find a way for the athletic department to give back to the University when their budget stabilized.
“That happened at a time when the athletic budget was below $25 million, and now it’s over $88 million,” Tublitz said.
To this day, the athletic department has still not committed to an annual contribution to academics.
“It doesn’t seem like the athletic department is ever going to feel like they are in a place to make a voluntary contribution to academics,” student committee member Maneesh Arora said. “Since they’ve been so far unwilling to do so, that’s really holding back the IAC in accomplishing the goals that we have.”
Since the agreement was signed in 2004, the University administration and the athletic department have place greater emphasis on the claim that the athletic department is a self-sustaining institution. During the latter half of the Frohnmayer administration and the Lariviere administration, the notion that the athletic department owes money to academic departments seemed to fade.
“The University of Oregon athletics department is self-supporting, which is very unusual,” said Phil Weiler, the senior director of the University Office of Communications, in an interview last December. “(There) are costs that the provost doesn’t want and does not allow the athletics department to cover.”
ASUO Sen. Katherine Du Pont, who is also an administrator of the Pit Crew student section, said that she agrees that the athletic department should largely remain self-sustaining, and supports the idea of the athletic department as a contracted organization, much like the Lane Transit District. Even so, she said as a student representative she would prefer to see some return from the athletic department to academics at the University.
“The athletics department is still a part of the University of Oregon. The University wasn’t started [for] a football team, it was started to be a place of academia,” Du Pont said. “I would like some money to come back, but that is a best-case scenario. Do I think it’s going to happen? No.”
The committee recently submitted a contribution model that would add an extra five percent surcharge to each football ticket. Each ticket would have something on the bottom saying five percent of this ticket is paying for some sort of academic benefit so fans would know that they were helping the University.
“It’s a very small thing but it does make a difference to the academic side and it could help tuition become more affordable,” Arora said.
The proposal was denied on the grounds that people wouldn’t buy tickets if the cost went up too much. Instead the committee proposed models including $2, $1, 50-cent, and 25-cent ticket surcharges. All of them were rejected.
“This is not taking any money away from their current budget,” Tublitz said. “It’s just adding a dollar to the future cost of football tickets.”
Another model was to take any growth from the athletic department budget from a certain start date, and give 10 percent of that growth to academics. If the athletic department grew by $1 million, $100,000 of that would go toward academics. This model was also dismissed.
“There is a lot of back-and-forth dialogue but nothing has been set,” student committee member Molly Bacon said. “It’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem like there has been any negotiation or even long-term planning.”
Bacon said that without the cooperation of the athletic department, the committee is at a impasse. She and the other committee members hope to make more headway through meaningful dialogue at an IAC meeting today at 6 p.m., at which representatives of the athletic department will be present to speak on these issues. The athletic department will also have a budget hearing with the ASUO tonight at 8 p.m, which could decide how much student money the ACFC will recommend that the athletic department receive in the upcoming academic year.