ASU's proposed athletics fee crosses line
ASU’s proposal for a student-funded $150 athletics fee is out of line.
I often joke that a college isn’t a real institute of higher learning if it doesn’t have a football team. The focus of college should obviously be academic.
The formula is simple: Football and men’s basketball make millions and pay for the smaller sports. But at the vast majority of schools, it is not the case.
According to USA Today, only 22 out of 227 public NCAA Division I schools, including the UA, make enough money on athletics to pay for sports other than those that bring in revenue. ASU is one of the 22, but it is contemplating a mandatory $150 student fee to fund athletics.
Whether or not students actually like sports or go to games, they would be on the hook to pay for athletics amenities such as the proposed tarp over Sun Devil Stadium. The UA only has one fee that high, the Health & Recreation Fee, which is for medical and counseling/psychological services and costs for the Student Recreation Center. That’s a little more important than paying for the water polo team’s trip to Rhode Island.
Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne said he doesn’t expect the UA to institute such a fee anytime soon.
“I was surprised to see that,” Byrne said. “I didn’t even know that was a discussion item. We’re always looking for ways to fund our program, but our goal is to do as much as we can with our revenues that we get from ticket sales, ZonaZoo, the Pac-12 revenues and fundraising and our corporate sponsorships.”
The State Press reported that Sun Devils Athletics has a $10 million deficit. The sad news is that ASU isn’t alone. There are hundreds of other DI schools that can’t pay the bills, so if the fee is approved and is successful, it could spread.
Fortunately, Byrne said he hasn’t heard of a nationwide trend as of yet.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard of that in a while, at least at our level,” Byrne said.
The fee would give all students football season tickets and make baseball, softball and other sports free for students. Currently admission to all varsity sports is free for ASU students. Regardless, the fee would make all students pay for an athletics department that is meant to be self-funded.
In 2012, the Pac-12 signed a $5.2 billion contract with ESPN and FOX. Some of that money surely could have gone to pay its debt.
ASU continues to extend the contract of men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek, who has had eight, 10 and 12-win seasons but only made it to the NCAA tournament once. The Sun Devils’ underperforming basketball program doesn’t make much money.
ASU basketball was 90th in the country in attendance last year, averaging 6,143 fans a game. Arizona averages 14,157 a game.
In football, ASU is a bit better, averaging 56,835 last year to Arizona’s 47,931. But ASU has two more sports than the UA — wrestling and water polo — and decided to add sand volleyball.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, ASU has the biggest undergraduate population in the country. With so many students and alumni, it shouldn’t have problems with fan support.
The financial burdens of university athletics programs should never fall on students’ shoulders.
—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520