The tone of Tuesday’s ASUO budget hearing with the athletic department drastically changed at one point when Garrett Klassy, executive director of the Duck Athletic Fund and the athletic department’s sole representative at the hearing, said these words:
“That stuff’s not free.”
In reference to elements of the negotiation (for example: differences of opinion on athletics’ funding, student seating), Klassy said, “We’re open to all of these things, but none of these systems are free … We have been working off athletic dollars. If you want some of these things done, we’re gonna need help.”
And well, that’s when everyone in the room realized that it was time for one of “those” conversations. Conversations that re-examine things that haven’t been re-examined for years.
And we support that conversation. The Athletics and Contracts Finance Committee was right to challenge the department on what exactly the extra $48-some-odd-thousand athletics asked for was going to fulfill that a 0 percent increase wouldn’t cover.
It’s simply ridiculous for athletics to expect to continue to milk the students for more and more money each year and not offer a plan to get more seats at games. It’s beyond ridiculous that we will be admitting thousands of new students this fall, and yet the athletic department that attracted them with a Rose Bowl win doesn’t have a plan to meaningfully grow the student section to accommodate such an increase.
Especially considering that our 10-year student agreement with the department is now over, it’s time for athletics to agree to new transparency standards before we can allow them to continue growing on the incidental fee.
The gravy train is over.
Because at one point, both the committee and Klassy raised the possibility of what would happen if the athletic department wasn’t to accept the committee’s recommendation, and that conversation wasn’t particularly elaborated further upon.
And what happens if that is the case: What if athletics says “No” to the recommendation? Is there just no student section in that “No” scenario?
Here’s the point: We get that athletics is a business, and that it does cost more money each year. But in a student government that distributes money on a viewpoint-neutral basis, when a group has a near-$50,000 increase, it needs to be able to answer for what that increase is for — even if that group is not required to tender a line-item budget.
In response to a question about the student presence at games, Klassy said, “Students are vital.”
So prove it. Work with us.
For a while, your argument that we couldn’t haggle for as much as we wanted on the budget made a bit of sense. But at a certain point, we also need to reconcile the amount this budget increases each year with the amount our services increase (or don’t) each year.
The ASUO funds many things and many groups. But the athletic department is the one service we fund that we haven’t really challenged in this way in a while. This is a good conversation, and it’s the right time to have it.
It’s not a new idea around these parts to suggest that athletics needs to give something back to the University for what it’s gotten. But it’s one that needs to be taken more seriously by the department.
Because as we said one full year ago, “Don’t get us wrong: We love our Ducks, but we also love our educations.”