UH Athletics Department to receive $10 million from taxpayers - Ka Leo O Hawaii: Opinion

UH Athletics Department to receive $10 million from taxpayers

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Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 5:00 am

With a weakened economy, falling excitement toward athletics and an already high athletic fee of $50, UH athletics does not need $10 million in matching funds from the State of Hawai’i. Rather than forcing new revenues by burdening taxpayers and students, UH athletics should instead seek to cut its bloated budget while improving volunteer fundraising efforts.

MORE BUDGET, MORE PROBLEMS

The fiscal insolvency of the UH Athletics Department is nothing new. During the past decade the department has only managed to avoid a budget deficit for two years: once in 2008 when the Warriors went to the Sugar Bowl, and once in 2011, the first year of the mandatory $50 student athletics fee instated quietly during the summer. 

Every other year since 2002 has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars added to the overall debt owed by the department. Even more, spending saw continued increases of approximately $1 million per year to the 2011 expenditure total of $28.7 million. Not to mention the Stevie Wonder fundraiser concert scam, which cost the university more than $1.2 million in legal and PR counsel, as well as a handsome settlement for ex-athletics director Jim Donovan.  

ATHLETIC BAILOUT

UH athletics’ financial situation has deteriorated such that last year, the Manoa Chancellor’s Office absorbed all $13 million of the Athletics Department’s debt. Chancellor Tom Apple explained it worked by “(moving) this debit from the athletics account to the Manoa Chancellor’s Office using non-academic sources such as interest and working capital to pay this off over time.”

Whatever the methods may be, it is apparent that the growth of the UH Athletics Department during the past decade has been unsustainable and that with unlimited state funds and bailouts, it will only continue down this ominous path. There are myriad issues other than athletics at UHM that call for more immediate attention at the benefit of the wider campus community.

STATE OF OUR UNIVERSITY

The current state of our campus is depressing and in grave need of repair.  While buildings such as the Business School are fairly well maintained, many other buildings are falling apart. Thankfully no one was present when the ceiling in a classroom on the third floor of Moore Hall collapsed inward due to a leaking pipe.  

There is some hope, as the state legislature plans to review construction transparency at Mānoa during the current legislative session, and one of the issues to be addressed by the House Higher Education Committee is the $487 million in backlogged construction and repair projects. 

This session, Brian Taniguchi, of the State Senate’s Higher Education Committee would like to freeze tuition – projected to increase by 30 percent for the 2016 to 2017 school year – and more closely examine the budget through a full financial audit performed by the State Congress and an independent third party.

Another legislative move that could benefit students is Rep. Gene Ward’s bill surrounding the “pay-forward, pay-back” tuition pilot program in which students could attend Manoa at no cost and repay their tuition after graduation with a percentage of their income.

Fundraising makes up most of the various athletic team budgets. The Athletics Department is only a small piece of the budget puzzle at UH, and as the campus as a whole desperately needs funding and support, the $10 million proposed to go to athletics should be redirected to a more pressing outlet.

Roman Kalinowski is the host of “The Morning Jive” from 6-9 a.m. on Thursdays on 90.3 KTUH FM.

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