Campus Loans to Athletic Department Criticized

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A recent revelation of campus loans to the UC Berkeley Department of Intercollegiate Athletics-to the tune of millions of dollars a year-has some faculty outraged, citing furloughs, pay cuts and higher tuition costs as reason enough to eliminate campus funding for athletics altogether.

According to financial figures from the department, 89 percent of its $64.9 million budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year was self-generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, television contracts and other sources.

But the other 11 percent, or about $7.7 million, was made up of campus support, which includes student registration fees, as well as money from the discretionary fund overseen by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau.

Critics, such as computer science professor Brian Barsky, said the department's figures appear confusing. Barsky estimated the cost to the campus for 2008-09 is actually closer to $13.5 million, and has been at least $10 million for four of the last five years.

"We have a program that's supposed to be auxiliary, self supporting," Barsky said. "It's not, and it's not by a significant amount. And at a time when we have so many other cuts ... it makes us wonder about the priorities we have."

Barsky, along with seven other professors, drafted a resolution recommending "that the chancellor put intercollegiate athletics on its intended self-supporting basis" immediately. This resolution will be discussed at the Nov. 5 meeting of the campus division of the Academic Senate.

The resolution also requests that the athletic department develop a plan to repay its debt to the campus as well as increase department transparency by creating an oversight committee.

Athletic department officials said they had a 20 percent budget cut in institutional support from the campus. In response, officials said eight staff positions have been eliminated, international team travel curtailed and the operating budgets of all department sports teams reduced by an average of six percent, including 12 percent to the football program.

Additionally, 29 of the 42 coaches in the department have elected to take furloughs, despite being exempted from the program as guaranteed contract employees by the UC Board of Regents.

"Like all of you, we are struggling to meet the challenges of an extraordinarily difficult financial situation," said Athletic Director Sandy Barbour in the statement. "We are all in this together and the pain must be shared."

Money loaned by the campus to the department is expected to be paid back, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, though the terms of the loans have yet to be finalized.

However, according to the Oct. 26 statement, $34.1 million in accumulated debt was forgiven by the campus in 2007, a decision based "on the principle that the current chancellor and athletic director should not be held responsible for decisions and actions of their predecessors."

Barsky's view is that balancing the budget of the athletic department should be a matter of living within its means.

"We look at our means," he said. "If they are going to take in $50 million, then don't spend more than $50 million."


Contact Chris Carrassi at [email protected]

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