California Spending on College Sports Facilities Despite Cuts to Higher Education

In an article published by USA Today, the paper reported about the tension between academic and athletics as a result of significant state funding cuts to the University of California (UC) system. The UC system is facing $813 million in cuts, including $150 million at the UC-Berkley campus, while at the same time more than $430 million in private funding will be spent at Berkley to enhance intercollegiate athletics facilities. Improvements will include a new office, training and locker room complex for athletics and then renovation of the 86-year-old stadium, in part to make it more earthquake-resistant.

According to the paper, UC anthropology professor Laura Nader expressed her concern in a letter she wrote to UC system President Mark Yudof: “No word of cuts? A new sports center, fixing the stadium? If it is true that this is what most alums want then faculty have done a poor job in educating.” However, Oliver Williamson, a professor emeritus of business, economics and law who was recently awarded a Nobel Prize in economics, stated: “I don’t think the chancellor and the leadership on the campus think of athletics as being immune (to the financial crisis). But some things, you can deal with immediately and directly. Other things, you deal with in the fullness of time. … I don’t see any reason to believe they’re lacking in judgment in this respect.”

Others acknowledged the separate nature of college sports in higher education. John Aubrey Douglass, a senior research fellow at Cal’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, stated: “I think, in light of the other major problems that face the university, there isn’t a tremendous amount of concern or interest in what’s going on in the semi-separate world of athletics. People tend to know it operates in a very different kind of world and structure. It’s half in the culture of the institution and half in the entertainment industry.”