“A million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money” to borrow from the late Everett Dirksen’s, R-Ill., “playbook.”
As Advocate readers are reminded daily, higher education in Louisiana is cash-strapped. Nevertheless, over $50 million in general fund tax dollars are transferred annually to cover losses incurred by intercollegiate athletics at all but one of our state universities. The exception is LSU. David Ramsey and Velton Knight have pointed out in recent letters to the editor that this practice means $50 million less for academics.
To date, however, no one has forwarded possible solutions to this ongoing problem. May I respectfully do so, suggesting four alternatives for those universities that cannot at least break even in athletics. They range from draconian (No. 1) to logical (No. 4).
1. Abolish intercollegiate athletics and return to club sports. That would turn the clock back to “Tom Brown’s School Days” and 1857 English rugby.
2) Join NCAA Division III, whose member institutions do not award athletic scholarships. Imagine … students playing solely for the love of the game.
3) Join NCAA Division II. Fewer athletic scholarships and sports are offered by these schools.
4) Create a conference like the Gulf States and require all state universities, except LSU of course, to join the all-Louisiana league. Older readers will recall that the GSC was once one of the nation’s premier conferences with intense in-state rivalries … and balanced athletic budgets.
Any of these solutions would bring back fiscal sanity to intercollegiate athletics in our state. Moreover, student-athletes would benefit by spending more time in the classroom and labs and less on planes and buses. An all-Louisiana conference would find Tech football players on buses to Natchitoches, not on jets to Huntington, West Virginia; the University of Louisiana at Lafayette volleyball team traveling not to Boone, North Carolina, but to Monroe; and the Southeastern track and field team on buses to Lake Charles, not Abilene, Texas.
Unless decisive action is taken in the near future, the coming decade likely will witness Louisiana’s institutions of higher learning diverting over $600 million from academics to athletics … and that’s “real money!”
Perry A. Snyder
retired association executive