Task Force Looks Into Athletics Spending

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The Academic Senate Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics released its final report on the UC Berkeley Department of Intercollegiate Athletics's "mounting financial deficits" Tuesday, pointedly advising the department to revamp its financial structure in order to achieve sustainability.

The report states that while the department was able to maintain athletic and academic excellence and integrity, its long history of "an inability to match expenditures and resources, overrun budgets and lack of financial controls and accountability has led to a failure of financial integrity."

The final report presents a detailed list of 12 recommendations for the department to achieve financial independence from campus subsidies and overall stability in an effort to slash the deficits the department faces.

Most of the recommendations focus on how the department can control and limit expenses. The task force encouraged setting strict budgets, making revenue and expense funds more transparent, creating a more sophisticated financial management structure within the department and maximizing fundraising efforts, among other things.

When Chancellor Robert Birgeneau received a copy of the recommendations after the task force - comprised of eight faculty members - first presented them in an interim report in July, he asked the senate in an Aug. 26 letter for more time to consult with both Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary before he implements any of the report's recommendations.

"It was my intention and desire to make public a detailed plan for IA's (Intercollegiate Athletics's) future by today," he said in the Aug. 26 letter. "However the reports delivered by the Council and Task Force in late June presented an array of new opportunities and concerns deserving of careful consideration."

While the athletic department's budget problems are nothing new, the report states that the economic recession in 2009 seriously reduced revenue for the department, and by the end of the fiscal year, it had overspent approximately $13 million.

Fiona Doyle, chair of the campus division of the Academic Senate, said that the combining of the general economic downturn with extenuating circumstances, such as bad weather discouraging attendance at football games, was bound to create difficulties for the department.

"There is a lot of volatility with intercollegiate athletics," she said. "Fairly poor accounting standards led to a lack of recognition that there actually was all this overspending until it was too late, and it is my understanding that financial reports (for the department) have been generated less regularly than in most other organizations."

The report states that the cause of the department's financial issues can be pinpointed to a task force created in 1991. That task force, headed by UC Berkeley professor of sociology Neil Smelser, authored a report that mapped out the future course of intercollegiate athletics, encouraging "across the board" top-level competition with both men's and women's sports.

However, competing at top levels increased the amount of spending needed to advertise and support the teams' various media and athletic campaigns. As a result, expenditures began to greatly outweigh revenue, and according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, this spending pattern made the department extremely vulnerable to something like a recession.

"The department is uniquely dependent on external revenues, and even a game in the rain could cause a loss in attendance which down the line causes potentially millions of dollars in losses," he said. "We now need to decide how to flatten out the bumps to make a financial model that is more able to withstand events like a recession."

The question remains, however, exactly how the department will be able to create something that could endure rocky economic circumstances while trying to reduce future deficits.

According to the report, the task force recommends that by 2014, the department have a budget deficit of no more than $5 million, with an ultimate reduction to a deficit of zero, though the time frame was not determined.

According to Mogulof, Barbour has already taken steps to jump-start the streamlining process. Within the last year, the department cut some $2.4 million from the budget by either removing positions entirely or leaving currently vacant spots unfilled.

"(The department) is conducting something akin to what the campus did with Operational Excellence," Mogulof said. "(The department) is trying to make sure that it will be able to run at maximum efficiency."


Katie Nelson is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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