Faculty Senate ad hoc committee response to athletic funding

Update 2/24/2021: Letter to the Board of Regents and President Schulz’s reply are linked below


On December 15, 2020, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee formed an ad hoc committee to formalize a statement to the Board of Regents concerning the proposal that 2-3 million dollars be diverted from unallocated university funds in order to support athletics. This ad hoc committee has produced a statement that is now open for signing.

Ad Hoc Committee membership

  • Von Walden, Professor, Pullman (Chair)
  • John Barber, Vancouver
  • Caitlin Bletscher, Vancouver
  • Matt Carol, Pullman
  • Glen Duncan, Spokane
  • Kelly Farnsworth, Pullman
  • Heiko Jansen, Pullman
  • Doreen Main, Pullman
  • Luke Premo, Pullman

Statement to the WSU’s Board of Regents & President Schulz’s Reply

We are collecting signatures that will be appended to this memo and presented to the Board of Regents. If you agree with this statement and would like to add your name, please use the form below.

Signature page closed 2/22/2021, See memo above



53 comments on "Faculty Senate ad hoc committee response to athletic funding"
  1. I sincerely thank my colleagues in the Senate for this clear-eyed recommendation and fully support it. I am honored to call you all colleagues in our core educational mission.

  2. The proposed diversion of funds from academics to athletics would affect the educational mission across all state campuses. Thank you for this clear and compelling statement on behalf of faculty.

    1. Maybe don’t pay a coach $3,000,000 if you don’t have the money? Don’t pull from elsewhere

  3. In the same email that I received about wanting to support Athletics, I read another proposal for faculty salary reductions and furloughs. Something is really wrong here.

  4. Every year for the past decade Athletics has proposed budgets that get their spending under control, and then the Board of Regents approves. They have never achieved any of their goals, and yet the BOR never holds them accountable. It needs to stop.

  5. I am fully supportive of this recommendation. I am hopeful that the Board of Regents can come up with alternate approaches to funding an athletic program that do not negatively impact our academic programs.

  6. Movement of critically needed funds from academic programs after years of budget neglect by Athletics sends the wrong message to the WSU community and could jeopardize the future of our students and university.

  7. I fully support this recommendation. our mission should be focused on our students, their success and the completion of their degrees. we cant do that when faculty salaries are being cut, departments are being shut down and people are being furloughed. the BOR needs to find an alternative way to fund athletics. thank you to the faculty senate for this recommendation.

  8. For many years when I was at WSU-Pullman, every year I had several undergraduate neuroscience majors in my lab; these students are the best and brightest at WSU. Almost all went on to get their MD, PhD, DVM, DDS or other higher degrees; something WSU can be proud of. Some were minorities – two of those got the MD degrees from Harvard, another went to UW Medical School and is now a faculty member at Harvard (also minority). Every one of those students complained about the money wasted on the Athletic program. They are correct and I can only conclude that we would have more students like the ones that were in my lab if we simply dropped intercollegiate athletics. I made my moral objections to football public in 2020 and they were on the Faculty Senate blog – I encourage you to read my arguments; fundamentally they conclude that we cannot afford the moral stain that football brings to WSU due to brain damage to the students.

    1. Thank you for your statement. In a sense, the argument is one of “concessions” versus “concussions”.

  9. I support this statement. And I thank the Faculty Senate for 1) executing a process to get broad faculty input and 2) following up on that input with this statement.

  10. No additional funding of any kind should go to Athletics until the budgets of the Academic Units are restored. Under no circumstances should budget sources intended for academic functions be diverted to Athletics. Seriously, are we an institution of higher education or not?

  11. If $2-3M annually to Athletics is necessary for Pac-12 membership, it is a bargain. First, athletic expenditures would be greater for WSU outside of the conference. Second, in the eyes of the nation, Pac-12 membership puts WSU in a peer group with UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. Exposure is usually expensive, but not in this case. What amount of money would it take for WSU to otherwise be mentioned in that company? In terms of exposure and prestige, $2-3M annually to athletics is not better than $0, but it is a good deal.

  12. If $2-3M annually to Athletics is necessary for Pac-12 membership, it is a bargain. First, athletic expenditures would be greater for WSU outside of the conference. Second, in the eyes of the nation, Pac-12 membership puts WSU in a peer group with UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. Exposure is usually expensive, but not in this case. What amount of money would it take for WSU to otherwise be mentioned in that company? In terms of exposure and prestige, $2-3M annually to athletics is not better than $0, but it is a good deal.

  13. When I was first informed of this proposal, I sincerely thought it was a joke. In the years I have been here as a PhD student, I have been unable to develop a sense of fit w/ WSU and it is largely because ideas like this are even entertained. We are an institution of higher education, not an athletic club. I understand the draw of the $ that athletics bring in, but I feel like it pulls us away from the mission a university should have: namely, the education of students. I find the fact that we are even considering diverting this large sum of funds AWAY from education TO athletics completely appalling. It is for reasons like this that, as an alumni, I will never be donating a cent of money back to WSU. Truly gross and disappointing.

  14. I fully and enthusiastically support the committee statement. WSU should be striving to maintain its unique status as a large land-grant University located in a small town, with academics and research at the forefront. Unfortunately, it appears WSU would rather play dress up and pretend we’re as successful at athletics as other major D1 programs around the country. Stop trying to become what we never were and never will be. This money should be spent on educational endeavors including maintaining and expanding existing research infrastructure, providing increased access to necessary academic materials and resources and additional departmental funding for quality faculty and staff positions. Athletics absolutely should not dictate University spending, especially with a consistent losing record and annual expenses that outpace generated income year after year after year.

  15. I applaud the effort by the Faculty senate to write a coherent and adequate response to the proposal. I give it my entire support. I believe that the response drafted by the Faculty senate align with my own views regarding this issue, but more importantly align with the purpose of an academic institution.

  16. I’m a new assistant professor in the department of marketing and I am thrilled to be at WSU! One of the main reasons I was so enthused about joining WSU is its focus on supporting junior faculty in their pursuit of high-quality research. On a personal level, I fear that taking funds from academic units could negatively impact my ability to conduct my research. More broadly speaking, I worry that it could have lasting negative effects on our ability to recruit dedicated scholars in the future if this proposal goes through as planned.

  17. Well articulated and I completely agree with this response. I fully support this statement and thank the Faculty senate for representing our concerns and views.

  18. Does subsidizing a unit that has no academic purpose to the tune of $2-3M a year, is losing $10M a year, and has an accumulated debt of $120M make any sense? Or is it a bottomless pit?

    The tired, old argument in favor of supporting athletics is that it gives the university national visibility, improves the quality of student applicants and, especially, makes alumni open up their wallets. But the losses are not chicken-feed. It is only common sense that administration plans for funding athletics should be justified with “objective” data, as the Senate requests, but they haven’t been in the past.

    Times are changing, as is university financing. Regents and administrators who are “gung-ho” attendees at PAC-12 games bring biased attitudes to this story. I think that WSU should go even further and eliminate Cougar Football completely. It’s expensive. Many prestigious universities have avoided or shut down football programs (for a list, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NCAA_Division_I_non-football_programs). Let’s stop throwing good money after bad. I hope some regents and administrators will finally rise to the occasion.

    1. It is my understanding that football and Pac-12 membership are revenue generators for WSU athletics. Without them, the deficit would be worse. That reality seems to be missing from the details of the statement.

    2. The point is not whether or not the WSU football program and Pac-12 membership generate revenue. The issue is that the athletics department generates less revenue than it spends. Therefore, it loses considerable money every year. The Faculty Senate statement does not call for the elimination of any athletics at WSU, but rather that WSU operates a program that is sustainable and that can balance their budget each year (like academic programs must do). We also ask that significant financial decisions at WSU such as this proposal be supported by data rather than talking points.

  19. Thanks to Faculty Senate for this action. Meanwhile Paul Strand seems to have swallowed the old kool-aid about sports’ benefits to academics. Even Sports Illustrated published a detailed report exposing the lie of sports’ contribution to universities’ mission. Before bailing out athletics by one penny, we must restore the true integrity of every academic unit’s original mission. The Regents are completely out of touch, and just as anti-intellectual as many of this nation’s political leaders. No university needs a basketball team, but every university needs research and teaching. Again, thanks to Faculty Senate.

  20. I think this money should stay in academics to increase salaries or be used for research and other programs. It may even be necessary to offset the extra expenses we will experience when we open our campuses again. Thank you

  21. Athletics entertains for a weekend. Academics changes entire lives. Research changes our future. “We need to spend this kind of money in order to remain competitive” is a statement that applies to academics and research as well as athletics.

  22. I strongly support the ad hoc statement. The university’s land grant mission has for too long taken a back seat to athletics. It would be absolute outrage and expression of fundamentally skewed values to redirect funds from strained academic programs to a program that has accumulated massive debt and appears to pose an increasing threat to the university’s land grant mission.

  23. The core missions of a land grant university are research, teaching, and extension. Athletics are not a core mission and in the time of a budget crisis it is absolutely critical that funds be prioritized ONLY for core mission priorities. It is not appropriate to divert additional funds to athletics.

  24. The Faculty Senate letter is on point and I agree with it. Suppose a student gained admission to both Harvard and Alabama. Does it not sound insane if they said, “Sure, Harvard would advance my career a thousand percent better than Alabama, but Alabama’s football team is better, so I’m going there.” I love athletics, but there is nothing crucial about athletics, and the fact that we have become dependent on television revenue is simply poor management. Our mission statement (https://wsu.edu/about/leadership/) lays out our priorities nicely, and I affirm its spirit.

  25. While currently outrageously unbalanced financially, athletics do provide something not yet discussed: opportunities for disenfranchised students to gain admission to colleges they would otherwise never have, and the opportunity to earn a college degree. Many football players arrive at WSU with superb athletic talent but also steep academic deficits. I support the Faculty Senate Letter with one caveat. Ensure athletes already enrolled at WSU an education independent of their athletic obligations and increase future scholarship opportunities to maintain outreach efforts to disenfranchised potential students.

    1. This seems like a very reasonable alternative proposal for how to spend the $2-3M each year: increase scholarships for underrepresented students! This is a great idea.

    2. To Martha Jane Jenkins: In my department we teach many athletes of color, and yes, some of them enter with serious academic deficits. But these deficits started long before college, and is the fault of a sports culture that exploits these athletes’ physical skills while neglecting their educations. The athletics department here actually has greatly improved its monitoring of athletes’ academic progress, but for many young people the deficits were too great before college. Moreover, what is the minuscule percentage of these people who can pursue their sport as a career? We could better serve them by admitting them not as athletes but as students needing tutoring, and developing their educations. Like the rest of us, they could benefit by more academics and fewer athletics.

  26. Thanks to the Faculty Senate and the ad hoc committee for a clear and compelling statement on an unfair proposal that would continue the diversion of resources away from the primary mission of the University. Academic units have been subjected to repeated budget reductions, which we have met at significant cost, while Athletics runs the opposite way with deficit spending.

  27. I fully support this statement and applaud the Faculty Senate for making it. I found it ironic that the email distributed to my department and containing this Faculty Senate statement also included a “OneWSU” white paper claiming that the institution will make all decisions based on clear data in its new “Initiative for Data-Informed Decisions (I DID)”. In this case, “WE DIDN’T”.

  28. The Faculty Senate’s strong response to the proposal has my full support. I believe that academia should trump athletics at an institution of higher education.

  29. Thanks to my colleagues in the Faculty Senate committee for the leadership and professional work in preparing this letter. It articulates our shared concerns as faculty members and staff over the proposal of subsidizing the Athletics department without building in true accountability. Yes, the core missions of a land grant university are research, teaching, and extension.

  30. I support this statement. One point worth noting is that President Schultz is the Pac-12 representative to the College Football Playoff Board of Managers. Not being able to pay your Pac-12 dues would be embarrassing for such an executive. He has a basic conflict of interest in this request and appears to others that he is using public money to support his executive privilege.

  31. This comes at the same time that we’re discussing policies regarding furloughs. I think that the allocation of ad hoc funding must be part of the furlough discussion. It makes very little sense to allocate $2M in ad hoc funding to a specific unit and then request furlough funding from the whole of the university.

    As I’ve written in the “WSU Budget Crisis Management Proposal” comments:

    –For the Faculty Senate to approve any furlough agreement that reduces salary from
    –academic/educational units, two conditions should be met:

    –(1) A simultaneous, proportionally equivalent reduction must be made from both the
    –administration and athletic units.

    –(2) Any ab hoc funding distributed to administration or athletics must be returned
    –prior to the implementation of furloughs. If the ad hoc funding cannot be returned,
    –additional furloughs should be imposed to these units to account for the ad hoc

    If we do decide to apply furlough to the whole of the university, we need to look at how these ad hoc funds were distributed.

  32. I fully support the committee statement. WSU faculty and staff push their limits and do their best to deliver high-quality education to our students and continue their research despite the difficult circumstances. Many undergraduate and graduate students struggle financially and mentally. We need to spend this kind of money to support our students and faculty. It is very discouraging to hear that university is planning to use its funds to continue to spoil its athletic department while academic units get budget cuts.

  33. I support the statement and appreciate the Faculty Senate for having the courage and wisdom to address the problem. I’ve heard statements from university administration that Athletics will eventually balance their budgets and pay off their accumulated debt. Let’s be honest, has Athletics ever run a surplus that would allow them to service debt? Why was a new baseball facility approved with yet another facility (indoor practice field) in the planning stage? We are told that these buildings are funded with private dollars. We need an accounting to see if sufficient private funds were raised to pay for the entire building cost. If not, then even more debt is being incurred.

  34. I am thankful for the Faculty Senate for taking this effort on. I have been at three universities where the athletic department is a financial drain on the rest of the university. The salaries are out of line, and if the university wished to become an entertainment center, it needs to change from calling itself an educational center and start calling itself a sports center or other entertainment activity.

  35. I strongly support the statement from Faculty Senate. To divert further funds from the true goals of our University to support a department that constantly runs such a significant deficit is an insult to the departments that have cut their own budgets and the departments that have been cut entirely in the past, i.e. Performing Arts.

  36. I support the statement by the committee, and I hope that the university follows their recommendations. It is not sustainable to continue to operate on such a deficit, especially for a non-essential service.

  37. I support the plan, Faculty Senate Opposes Proposed Diversion of University Funds for WSU Athletics .

    With so many budget cuts, lack of raises for faculty, and lack of improvements to the tools we need to teach, it is irresponsible to use money from the already poor academic budget to bail out football.

  38. My favorite part of this is that they want to take money from Global campus, yet do not have a single representative from the campus. Interesting.

  39. As a student from the Vancouver Campus, I support this statement and thank the Faculty Senate for prioritizing students’ education.

  40. All students regardless of which campus should have same opportunity to have same quality of education. If that much money disappeared for one group of University, other students will lose their opportunity to get benefit from school.

  41. We have learned that revenue from a Pac-12 level athletics program is insufficient to fund itself. Athletics at the top level cannot be self sustaining. This means that the only responsible step that WSU can take is to stop the wasteful and harmful spending and focus on our core mission of education and research. I was an NCAA athlete as an undergrad and I greatly value the experience of participation in athletics in my development. We can provide our students with that participation and experience without the glitz and romance of the top level division one circus.

  42. The Administrative Professional Advisory Council (APAC) is in agreement that more clarity and information is needed before a decision should be made on sending funds to athletics. We recognize the desire to fund PAC-12 membership but are concerned when academic and student service departments have been asked to make large cuts, work with less and are working with unfilled positions or having to furlough employees. We also recognize that there are academic and student support staff within athletics that are in fear of positions being cut and this additional funding may support these positions.

  43. Comments from an anonymous colleague: Before coming to WSU, I worked in University Development at the University of Arkansas. I saw firsthand the significance that Athletics and Development play in successfully bringing funding to a university. The U of A is in a much different position than WSU. Their Athletics brings in revenue which does get reinvested into university academics. A portion of those revenue come from television and ticket sales, but also a significant amount comes from Alumni. There is a reason why everything in the football stadium has a name on it. (The Stadium, the Field, the benches, the halls, etc.) Athletics is different when it comes covering it’s expenses because the only non-university funds it receives are those revenues from advertising and alumni.

    University Development likes to present their fundraising campaign figures with a little smoke and mirrors. For example, if you look at the general breakdown, ~3/4 of the campaign is coming from gifts, grants and other contributions. What WSU isn’t saying in those figures is that the majority of Academic fundraising (which is the bulk of it) is through grant funding. Development loves this type of funding because it requires next to no work on their part. Faculty do the lifting on applying for, winning, and managing grants. Yet, Development gets to count it as a “contribution” in the campaign. Unlike their academic counterparts, the Athletics can’t earn external funding through grants and the like. From what little digging I did, in the current fundraising campaign Athletics brought in $97 million with $85 million coming from alumni and private donations. (87%)

    Universities can tell us that they keep Athletics around because it helps in promotion and revenue, but the real money is in Alumni relations. Students are not filling the seats of Razorback Stadium and paying $5 for a coke – it’s an alumni. It’s the same at WSU. This development campaign shows that the Alumni are footing the extra bills that the University and television revenue aren’t covering. (or perhaps they’re just paying off the interest on Athletics tab)

    I’m probably not telling you anything new, but if anything I propose a different strategy in responding to the University. If faculty want to push back on the athletic budget (which I support) then do so by pushing back on University Development. It is their job to pound the pavement with alumni and industry to get the funds to cover Athletics. In a state as industry-rich as Washington there is no excuse for the marginal funds that Development is earning for Athletics. I do mean marginal. $97 million for an entire campaign is a joke. There is a reason that every single Athletic facility in Fayetteville has a Tyson, Walton, Reynolds, or Jones name attached to it. (some more than once) I believe that suggesting to the University to doubling down in Development is simpler (and more cost effective) solution than thieving from academics. They can higher 2-3 development professionals to do targeted campaigning and bring in the lack of athletics funding at a fraction the cost. It’s much more cost effective. A quality development officer is worth their weight.

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