POWER PLAY

As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA, Political Science, 1999) I continue to take an interest in the affairs of the school even though I left Wisconsin many years ago. Students, faculty, staff, and administrators throughout the UW system may feel powerless to fight back against their illiterate prick of a Governor's latest plan to close the $2 billion hole he created in the state budget by slashing taxes for the wealthy (Supply Side Economics: it works!) by gutting one of the only things the state has going for it economically to the tune of $300 million. Wisconsin, it seems, is in a race with Michigan to become the Alabama of the North.

So, unsolicited advice from an alum. The chancellor of UW-Madison and the Board of Regents for the state system should call a press conference tomorrow morning to announce that, effective immediately, all college athletic programs in the state have been disbanded due to budget cuts.

Walker-loving hillbillies sure do get a kick out of sticking it to them librul professors with their lattes and Volvos and fancy book learnin', but they like Badger football, hockey, and (perennial Sweet Sixteen or better) men's basketball even more. Not to mention the dozen other schools in the state with locally popular athletic programs. I've said this a million times, but if universities have to make "tough decisions" due to financial constraints they should start with the most popular but least important part of the budget.

Feel free to end the one-sentence announcement with, "Your move, asshole."

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46 Responses to “POWER PLAY”

  1. Tim H. Says:

    An excellent idea, college sports may excite certain people, but has very little to do with the purpose of the institution. I especially like the idea of Walker vs sports nuts.

  2. low carb diet Says:

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  3. Charles Says:

    Beautiful.

  4. DES Says:

    So simple, so true, and so unlikely to happen.

  5. MK Says:

    This line in the linked article stood out: "The proposal would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the system's budget but give more autonomy to the governor-appointed Board of Regents . . ."

    It's just perfect. States want to cut funding to the bone — where I work state funding is down something like 60% — but yet the legislatures and governors still want full control over the boards so they can reward their political friends with appointments. You pay for it with student loans and Mr. Hacky McCampaign-Donation there gets to run it. He'll bring his biznis experience (which, at least where I work, is almost always bolstered by the same state contacts that got him on the board).

    And if the professors fight back? Just MOOC them out of existence.

  6. Anubis Bard Says:

    That's not only brilliant, but it would probably work. And so, if it is not already explicitly against state law, it soon will be.

  7. dan Says:

    They can't cut something that produces revenue.

  8. John Danley Says:

    Walker's budget repair plan means more fuel for his Harley. Late at night, when the moon is full above Wauwatosa, you can find him wearing chaps and watching the Milwaukee Mustangs in an Indian casino.

  9. Emerson Dameron Says:

    This wouldn't happen, since Da Badgaz pay their own bills.

    More realistically, didn't Da Packaz join the pro-union protests when Walker had his showdown with teachers?

    Growing up under Reagan, it never occured to me that there would come a time when the Fiscal Hawks would start taking out their animus on cops and teachers, who were always widely considered American heroes and useful political pawns for social liberals and conservatives alike. When athletes realized their own negotiators might be next in line for the stocks, some regional meatheads finally decided Grover Norquist's toadies might be overdoing it.

  10. cackalacka Says:

    As a taxpayer of NC, watching our once-prestigious UNC system get rocked by academic fraud scandals, as well as the recent sack by the stacked board of regents, I'm always impressed that public institutions in my state can afford to give Roy Williams nearly 2 million to instruct young men how to play basketball and not be aware of said academic scandals.

  11. Heisenberg Says:

    I dig the snark, but realistically I don't think it would have the desired effect. The state government ultimately controls UW, no? I can't be sure about Wisconsin, but most state university systems were created, and are substantially funded, by acts of the state legislature and/or executive branch.

    So it seems like the next "move" by Walker and company would simply be to legislate the UW's budget a little more. As in: legislatively require that athletic programs remain open.

    The state govt makes the rules by which the UW must play – so in the event of an uppity UW, couldn't the state govt could just change those rules?

  12. cackalacka Says:

    For those who say that college athletics are lucrative, please show your homework.

  13. cackalacka Says:

    (and by lucrative, I mean net revenue generators for their institutions, and not say, the coaches or ESPN.)

  14. Chicagojon Says:

    I heard that Wisconsin under Walker has been a fantastic success. So much so that IN is basing its policies almost entirely on the Walker model and Walker will be a hero in the Republican primary.

    Are you saying this isn't true?

  15. Skipper Says:

    All they really have to do is hold athletes to the same academic standards as other students. When half of their teams are ineligible to play because of low grades, someone will notice.

  16. Ed Says:

    99% of NCAA athletic departments are net money losers. Including Wisconsin.

  17. Stelter Says:

    As a recent grad from a ~2,300 student sinking liberal arts college in northern MN with a 2 million dollar budget deficit, I couldn't believe the amount of money the administration was willing to sink into our shitty DIII- Private-religious-liberal-arts-conference sports. While I was there they pumped around 6 million alone into new infrastructure while at the same time torching every non-tenured prof they had.

  18. Rob Says:

    @Emerson Dameron–The Packers absolutely did *not* show-up or offer any support for the pro-union rallies in Madison. They were busy working on their new collective bargaining contract with the NFL and couldn't be bothered with those "lesser" unions.

  19. Emerson Dameron Says:

    @Rob:

    I stand corrected.

  20. Jacquilynne Says:

    In Canada, we call those kinds of cuts "taking the government for a musical ride". Except in this case, it would actually make sense, rather than just being a way to score political points.

  21. Paul Says:

    I'm with you in principle, Ed, but don't the athletic programs in schools like UW bring in more money than they spend?

  22. Ed Says:

    No, not even close.

  23. Tom Says:

    Turns out his wet dreams aren't true, after all.

    http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2015/jan/28/scott-walker/scott-walker-records-show-soviets-treated-ronald-r/

  24. charluckles Says:

    It's a nice thought, but in my experience you know who else really likes athletics and the alumni it attracts? Administrators, chancellors, and boards of regents.

    These kind of issues are not going to be addressed until people start being more willing to not only unionize, but to take the actions that come along with being in a union.

  25. anotherbozo Says:

    I think the UW system was second only to UC in California as the best state system in the country. If UC's budget was slashed by 1/3, or was it 20%, in the post-Reagan, Proposition Slash Taxes era, why should UW we left standing?

    As a UC alum I've been peppered with phone calls begging for donations–this from a public university. It's pathetic. As in really, really sad. And infuriating.

    Charles Pierce has a good blog on the details.
    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/Scott_Walker_And_His_Penny_Ante_Empires

  26. Jesse Says:

    Aside from your sound logic and compelling argument, I, as a University of Alaska Anchorage alumni and hockey fan, fully support fucking Badgers hockey in any way possible, even if they're no longer in the WCHA.

  27. Anonymouse Says:

    @anotherbozo; I'm peppered with pleas from the county community college for money…and all I took was a single technical course and certification exam through them.

  28. Matthew Says:

    Seems like most colleges about break even, at least at the top end. This makes sense as there's no incentive for an AD to return money to the university. They might as well invest all the profits and take all the subsidies they can get.

    Wisconsin is #2 on this list in terms of revenue.
    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/schools/finances/

    Its hard to tell looking at the budget breakdown, but my guess is that increases to administration and "support" services waste more money than the athletic program. The biggest problem is a lack in state support (see page 5).

    http://chancellor.wisc.edu/content/uploads/2014/10/Budget_Brief.pdf

  29. doug Says:

    Ed, no way you can match Alabama. To wit: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/01/roy_moore_re_elected_in_alabama_ten_commandments_supreme_court_chief_justice.html

  30. hackenbush Says:

    I also went to college back in the late 1990s, at an NCAA-participating school. The "scholar athlete" was a laughable myth in their big Men's Basketball and Football teams. Let's just say that most of them didn't even bother showing up for class, and when they did show up for the final exams, the professors looked the other way while they wholesale copied their answers off of other students' papers. It was all accepted because the part of the university that dealt with fundraising, with the draconian title of "Institutional Advancement", knew that athletics were not only the carrot to keep school enrollment up, but also the carrot to entice wealthy donors. (This was also a "state university", in case anyone was wondering.)

  31. Skepticalist Says:

    The idea would be for them to get this out in local and national media. Just having all those tax cutters defend sports programs over book larnin' would be worth it. Whether it had a chance or not, all the squirming and backpedaling would be great theater.

    It sure as hell wouldn't help Walker nationally….a good thing if there ever was.

  32. Mack Says:

    I didn't attend the UW Madison but I was a townie – I lived in Madison from '82 to '93 and I'm amazed every time I go up there to visit my folks by how much massive new campus construction there is year after year. The size of campus has literally doubled since I moved away and construction continues. I know these buildings are often largely funded by specific grants (how you get a building named after you) from private individuals. The UW Madison might want to halt new construction and divert new monies to maintaining their academic programs. Those big donors might get pissed?

    They could also close all the fancy student amenities – the SERF, NAT, etc? Close the Union, close Babcock Hall… I could list a million things.

    I always appreciated the UW as an institution that made Madison a much better place to live than most other similarly sized Midwest towns (see Ohio) it's unfortunate that what will likely be preserved in the face of these cuts are the big NCAA sports. Indirectly it's also a message to douchebag frat boys that the stuff they like about college is what's really important.

    Also, WTF is up with every middle-aged semi-illiterate high school dropout in the state of WI being a rabid Badger fan despite being too dense to even gain admission to their flagship state school.

    Make me almost proud that I went to Northwestern.

  33. Paul Says:

    >Not even close.

    This article says UW athletics generated $149 million in revenues, with $146.7 million in expenses, for school year 2012-2013 (netting UW $2.3 mil). http://host.madison.com/sports/columnists/tom_mulhern/badgers-sports-uw-ranks-no-in-nation-in-athletics-revenue/article_1495cdde-79ce-5867-b8a3-bc990652541e.html

  34. jharp Says:

    "Wisconsin, it seems, is in a race with Michigan to become the Alabama of the North."

    Both have a long way to go to catch up with Indiana.

  35. Benny Lava Says:

    Most big time college football programs generate enough revenue to fund themselves and most of the athletic department. UW is profitable as are most Big Ten schools. The money losers are those that have trouble matching money on loser sports to comply with Title 9. Usually lower tier schools.

  36. Khaled Says:

    @Paul-
    The ESPN article (that the column that you linked to cited) only looked at expenses and revenue reported to the NCAA. In that ESPN article, it said that OSU's expenses did not include the debt service on the renovations on Ohio Stadium. I suspect those "expenses" such as debt service on building projects, buyouts, and even opportunity costs (for having resources that otherwise could be used for academic purposes, or the costs of having a student "spot" go to an athlete instead of a regular student, etc.) are not factored into the "expenses" vs "costs", not to mention I don't think it even figured in the costs of scholarships. And that is only UW Madison- all the rest of the UW system has athletics that cost money. College sports cost money, and relying on donations to cover expenses (another thing that the UW figures included- donations to the athletic department, meaning that alumni are ponying up cash for the athletic department instead of the general fund) is not sustainable.
    That all being said, I still want my college football, hockey and basketball teams to do well. I know it takes resources away from the academics, but UM's endowment means that it really doesn't need the state of Michigan, and it brings me joy when they win, and pain when OSU beats them (especially since I live in Ohio). Go Blue!

  37. Benny Lava Says:

    In fact you can read through UW's budget here: http://profs.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/UW-Madison-2012-13-NCAA-Regent-Report-.pdf

  38. Luke Says:

    Would we really call 4/10 Sweet Sixteen appearances in the last 10 years 'perennial'?

    *Warning: biased Minnesotan positing this

  39. mothra Says:

    Shorter Scott Walker: I'm stupid, so everyone else should be, too.

  40. Pat Says:

    "Power Play." I see what you did there.

    I know it's a cheap shot, but it still astonishes me every time I'm reminded Scott Walker is not a college graduate. And he's running (potentially) for president.

  41. Anonymouse Says:

    @Khaled; athletic budgets also hide costs by pretending they're for the campus as a whole to use. For example, weight rooms, whirlpools, massage therapists and physical therapists that are (on paper) available to any student, but in reality are only available to the athletes.

    Then there's the "athletes' cafeteria"; higher-quality food that the athletes get, while the average dormitory students get SOS and lots of cheap carbs.

    Practically no college sports teams are self-supporting, much less funding anything else, and as was pointed out earlier, the "student atheltes" are usually taking up space that actual students would love to have.

  42. Benny Lava Says:

    Sorry guys I wish this were true. But just crunch the numbers and the sad truth is that big time college football and basketball is a huge profit generator. The reason athletic departments don't make more money is because of loser sports like women's tennis. Athletic departments must match spending on men's and women's varsity sports. Thus it is that often poor black men playing football and basketball subsidize the rich white women on the crew team. As much as I'd like to stick it to the jocks, the numbers don't lie folks. Add up the 100 dollar tickets, luxury boxes, Nike endorsements, TV deals and you have more than paid for the team.

    After all the administration isn't dumb. Just crunch the numbers.

  43. Paul Says:

    @Khaled: Good point. Using the link Benny Lava provided, you can see the balance sheet (Appendix A) laid out to make a big show of UW athletics paying for themselves. But on the very next page, presented as an entirely separate matter from operating budget, are the cost of facilities. They add up $125 million in outstanding debt; UW paid $12 million interest on them in 2013.

  44. dharma_dream Says:

    Bobby Jindal. Louisiana higher ed. Could be worse, but I wouldn't wish that for anyone.