A column by Tom Eblen of the Lexington Herald-Leader proposed that the University of Kentucky (UK) athletic program contribute 10% of its budget, or $6.7 million this year, to other university purposes, rather than $1.2 million that it will pay. Eblen notes the historical financial picture of athletics and academics at UK, painted by a recent editorial in the paper: since 1988, tuition has risen almost 500 percent, and UK’s athletics budget has grown 389 percent, from $13.7 million to $67 million. Over the same period of time, athletics’ financial contribution to the larger university has remained flat, at $1.2 million, which goes to scholarships for non-athletes. The article was precipitated by the recent hiring of UK men’s basketball coach John Calipari for $31.65 million over eight years.
The article included comments by Joe Peek, UK’s Gatton Endowed Chair in International Banking and Financial Economics. Peek suggested the university charge athletics a “franchise fee,” noting that UK’s “self-supporting” athletics program doesn’t account for facilities, utilities, maintenance and other services the university provides to athletics.