They do it because they can.

If there’s a story that sums up all of the arrogance that I despise from college athletics administrators, this is it.

About 1,000 miles to the west in Lawrence, a battle to eliminate a student fee at the University of Kansas ended differently.

In two years as a walk-on golfer, Catt got an inside view of Kansas athletics and began to wonder why the department needed $50 from each student every year in addition to ticket payments.

In two years, Kansas athletics spent $9 million in severance on fired football coaches Mark Mangino and Turner Gill. When Catt did not notice any corresponding layoffs or cutbacks, he decided to do some research.

Catt reviewed financial statements that showed Kansas athletics income rose from $50.8 million in 2005 to $93.6 million in 2013. In early 2014, Catt sent a 35-page report to the student senate, arguing that the fee, which produced about $1.1 million for athletics, should be eliminated.

“Students were seeing a rise in tuition, more student debt . . . and the athletics department was making more and more money every year. It just didn’t seem like they needed it,” Catt said in an interview.

Catt’s report was persuasive. Students voted to kill the fee. Athletics administrators fought back, though, and eventually won a compromise from the chancellor that kept a reduced $12 fee. Ultimately, the change cost Kansas athletics about $350,000.

Kansas athletics administrators weren’t satisfied. A few months later, they eliminated one of the best student sections at men’s basketball games — 120 seats right behind the Jayhawks’ bench — and gave the seats to donors who contributed at least $25,000 per year.

“When the student government proposed [eliminating the fee] . . . it made it very clear that it wanted the athletic department to find other ways to raise revenue,” Kansas athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony told a local newspaper. “That’s what we did.”

When Catt talks about the experience today, one comment from a deputy athletics director sticks out in his mind.

“He told me, ‘We’re in the business of being great, and it costs money to be great,’ ” Catt recalled.

A few months later, Kansas fired football coach Charlie Weis, who won just six of 28 games at the school, taking on another $5 million in severance.

“It became clear in our meetings,” Catt said, “that normal economics don’t apply to anyone in Kansas athletics.”

Honestly, were I a Kansas student, the thought that part of my student loans went to pay Charlie Weis’ buyout would drive me to drink.  Heavily.

11 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness

11 responses to “They do it because they can.

  1. “When the student government proposed [eliminating the fee] . . . it made it very clear that it wanted the athletic department to find other ways to raise revenue,” Kansas athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony told a local newspaper. “That’s what we did.”

    Wow. Wow. Wow. It’s one thing to make decisions out of greed, we’ve grown to expect that. But this makes it sound like a main course of greed with a side of punitive spite.

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  2. The Truth

    What ought to drive all of us to drink — or get out the pitchforks and torches — is the fact that federal taxpayer money is being used to back these loans that are paying Weis’ buyout. That’s right — some little minuscule portion of your hard-earned dollar is in that mix.

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  3. Dolly Llama

    So you’re talking about 1% of the school’s total sports revenue here? That’s what gets me. If you were talking a significant chunk, it’d be one thing, but this seems like very little to get so pissy and vengeful over.

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  4. W Cobb Dawg

    A “walk-on golfer” – I like that. They have 120 donors who contribute 25k? Kansas?! How ya gonna keep em down on the farm after they’ve seen basketball.

    A fool and his money… gets invited to a lot of parties!

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  5. paul

    I think we are quickly approaching a time when schools will have no choice but to take one of two paths. The schools with money are going to have to cut their athletics departments loose financially and require them to function totally independently from the school budget and without the benefit of any student, state or federal money. The schools without money are going to have to dial things back significantly and return to the kind of athletics model that was common thirty or forty years ago. Programs bringing in $100 million dollars or more simply can’t justify requiring student fees to support their budget. Students and parents alike simply won’t continue to tolerate it. As states continue to de-fund education and schools continue to require their students to make up the shortfall, an education becomes an ever more expensive proposition. People will demand relief.

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    • Buz

      At some point you might just decouple the Athletic Associations and schools completely. Then we just become minor league NFL teams.

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  6. 69Dawg

    Back in the 60’s the student section at UGA was from the North side 50 yard line to where the band is now. We actually got tickets with seat numbers and did not have to fight. The higher you class rank the closer to the 50 you got. My senior year was 50 year line. It did cost us though $2 per ticket if you wanted to go. Times change and so do institutions. As B Franklin once said the only sure things are death and taxes but I think change should be in there too.

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  7. Legatedawg

    NOT meant as a reference to our situation, but I wonder how KU people would react if Weis had quoted TR’s In the Arena at them on the eve of his final game in Lawrence. However, I suspect that he has been far too busy laughing his way to the bank with his various buyouts to have spent any time reading American history or rhetoric. Talk about ill-gotten gains….sheeesh.

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  8. Doug

    The (already comfortable) people at the top viewing the people below them as little more than cash machines, and disciplining those who dare to question it. Perfect metaphor for where we’re getting to as a country, unfortunately.

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  9. Napoleon BonerFart

    What was Catt bitching about? Didn’t he appreciate the free wi-fi?

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