For once, I welcome our new legislative overlords.
With the athletic departments of Washington’s two biggest public colleges reporting budget deficits two years in a row, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) is proposing a bill that will subject college athletics budgets to legislature approval if their athletic departments run deficits for three consecutive years.
Washington State’s athletics department has reported deficits of about $13 million in each of the last two fiscal years, while UW’s athletics department projected a deficit of about $15 million for the 2016 fiscal year, but that figure was later updated to about a $7 or $8 million deficit. Last year, new WSU President Kirk Schulz also proposed a plan that he believes will get WSU’s athletic department solvent by 2019.
Under the new bill Baumgartner is proposing, if a college athletic department cannot get back in the black after three consecutive years, its budget will have to be reviewed and approved by the Commerce, Labor and Sports committee before it can be adopted by the college.
‘Bout damned time.
“I’m a big fan of college athletics, but I have no doubt much of the public would appreciate a timeout on the arms race of college athletics spending,” Baumgartner said in the news release. “This is about ensuring the long-term viability of these programs that give our state’s students so many opportunities. This bill gives our state’s universities a three-year runway from today to get their budgets balanced, and if they can’t do it, my committee will help do it for them.”
Help us to help you!
Of course, the hard part comes in deciphering a college athletics department’s budget.
“The overriding goal is to bring transparency and public oversight to the use of public resources,” Baumgartner said in a phone interview with The Seattle Times. “I think sports is an important part of the university experience, but within balance and reason. More than determining the outcome, I want to make sure public dollars are protected.”
If this bill passes, what do you want to bet those deficits come down faster than planned?