Academic leaders question Oregon’s football budget

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We all have come to a pretty general understanding that sports drives revenue for universities, with football bringing the most money into the university. No athletic program generates as much income as Oregon (thanks Nike!), but academic leaders in Eugene would like to see more of that money be put to academic uses.

“Our administration needs to take more responsibility to fully exploit the opportunity that our athletic department provides — on behalf of our students, our faculty and our institution,”former business school dean Dennis Howard said Friday, per The Register-Guard. He was not alone in challenging Oregon officials to think hard about how the budget will be formed.

“It would be really good if we were all in this together and the athletic department was trying to help the rest of the university,”Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh said.

Oregon football really cashed in this past year with an appearance in the College Football Playoff championship game, not to mention the revenue share it receives from the Pac-12 and any money funneled in through its relationship with Phil Knight of Nike. The problem some have with all of the money coming in through Oregon athletics is every dime of it is spent on athletics.

“They have $98 million in revenue and, strangely, exactly $98 million in expenses,” Howard explained. “If you look back year after year, you will find that revenue and expenses match up almost to a penny. … When they get extra TV revenue, they do what they just did in February. They go to the president and the Board of Trustees and the coaches and the athletic director get raises, so expenses go up.”

There is something to be said for a football program that is capable of being self-sufficient in its operations, and it is far better than operating in the red on an annual basis. But how much should Oregon’s athletics department be contributing to the academic side of things? There may be no perfect answer to this question.