IMG Intercollegiate Forum: Examining Rising Costs of Athletics

A discussion on December 9 at the annual Street & Smith’s Sports Business Daily IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum featured a discussion about the financial pressures facing college sports, addressing the recent Knight Commission survey of presidents at major college football institutions which found that athletic costs are unsustainable. The panel discussion, titled “Chancellors and Presidents: Examining the Pressing Issues Facing College Sports,” featured University System of Maryland Chancellor and Knight Commission co-chair William “Brit” Kirwan, University of Kentucky President Lee Todd, University of Florida President Bernie Machen, and NCAA Interim President Jim Isch.

Kirwan used the rise in assistant coaching salaries as an example of the financial difficulties that are problematic for college athletics. “When you step back and look at this, you have to say, ‘Isn’t there something wrong with this system when assistant coaches are getting paid twice as much as the faculty that serve the institution?'” Kirwan added that transparency to the financial situation could compel reform as was the case when transparency in academics led to to the Academic Progress Rate system now instituted by the NCAA to help improve graduation rates.

However, Todd cautioned universities from being too aggressive in instituting reform, saying, “You can’t have collusion. You can’t all get in a room and say, ‘we’re just going to pay coaches x amount of dollars.’ It’s a difficult conversation.” Machen stated the need to develop a revenue-sharing system between the haves and have-nots. Machen said, “There needs to be a way to think about the total athletic pot being accessible to schools in some way. I think it’s going to happen. I don’t think it’s fair for a school like Utah to have one-fourth the budget that Florida does.”