The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics released a study on Oct. 26, 2009 that found that university presidents at institutions with major football programs believe that current spending trends on intercollegiate athletics cannot be sustained, and action is needed to address this issue.
So why am I writing about this on a diving site? The answer is that this problem of for-profit athletic departments administering amateur collegiate athletes has, and will continue to have a dramatic effect on collegiate swimming and diving programs.
What is the Knight Commission?
The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics was formed in 1989, to study and combat the growing number of abuses in college athletics. According to their website, their goal was “to promote a reform agenda that emphasized academic values in a climate in which commercialization of college sports often overshadowed the underlying goals of higher education.”
Connection with Diving
Diving, in combination with swimming, is a non-revenue, or Olympic sport. As such, its existence as a collegiate sport is due to a variety of reasons such as an institution’s athletic history, location, athletic facilities, and NCAA membership requirements.
If an athletic department fails to sustain itself, or creates a financial hardship for the university in question, changes are usually instituted to reverse this trend.
So what happens when an athletic department is loosing money? They cut costs to balance the budget, and one of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to eliminate a sport, or reduce its funding to a bare minimum. These budgetary problems combined with adherence to Title IX mandates have already taken their toll on men’s swimming and diving programs - UCLA, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa State to name a few.
As this occurs (and it is becoming more frequent during our recent economic downturn), swimming and diving and many of the other non-revenue sports, run the risk of having their budgets reduced or the sport eliminated.
Athletic Departments in the Red
The commonly held belief that athletic departments make money and are self-sufficient is a myth. Close to 80% of all athletic departments that sponsor revenue producing sports, loose money, and a lot of it. Even those that do operate in the black generally receive subsidies from a universities budget. Additionally, these facts only refer to those schools that are members of the Football Bowl Subdivision (formally Division I-A), and do not include athletic departments whose revenues do not generally sustain the department, such as the Football Championship Subdivision (formally Division I-AA), Division I (athletic departments not sponsoring football) Division II and Division III.
A second myth is that the revenue sports fully support non-revenue sports. Again, not true. As of 2007-2008, 94 of the 119 athletic departments in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision - those schools that actually have a chance at making money, ran a deficit that averaged $9.9 million. Only half of those schools’s revenue producing sports makes enough money to cover their own budgets.
The Impact Upon Diving
Not only do these current trends affect swimming and diving programs, to the point of elimination, but the ripple effect goes much deeper. The sport of diving, in its current state, is inexorably linked to college diving. College scholarships and participation provide a goal for a significant portion of age group and high school divers, and collegiate facilities provide a venue for many diving programs throughout the U.S.
The downgrade, or elimination of many of these collegiate programs, and the subsequent loss of facilities in which to train, could have a crippling effect upon a sport that has suffered a loss of prestige, and sponsorship dollars over the past 20 years.
For the sake of the sport of diving, let’s hope that this report can bring about the sobering realization that college athletics, because of its link to the educational process, cannot and should not follow a common economic model of success and failure in business. Moreover, that college and university presidents will move to stop the escalating cost of collegiate athletics and its undesirable effects.
Source: The Knight Commision