Money pit or profit center? Small colleges flip script on athletic spending

On April 28, the University of Massachusetts faculty senate voted to recommend that the administration drop the football program from Division I FBS (85 scholarships) to Division I FCS (63 scholarships) or drop the program altogether. The move would come five years after the school transitioned to FBS in search of more revenue for the athletic department.

Earlier in the month, Eastern Michigan’s faculty senate made the same recommendation.

The UMass athletic department spent more than $28.5 million in subsidy money to fund the department, which came from a student fee and money from the university’s general fund.

EMU required more than $27.3 million in subsidy money.

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The universities with the largest subsidies. (USA Today)

For many, the costs of operating a Division I athletic department, especially with an expensive football program, are too high in the face of rising tuition and less public funding.

Many deplore the spending of university money on athletics when academic programs get reduced funding or cut altogether.

In their yearly report on NCAA Division I institutions’ athletic finances, USA Today found that only 12 institutions operated their athletic departments solely on their own revenues, which includes ticket sales, TV contracts and donations to the department.

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The highest revenue producing universities in 2015. (USA Today)

Some of those athletic departments even give money back to the university. Louisiana State reports an average $8.7 million dollar subsidy back to the cash-strapped university.

 

However, the rest need subsidy funding from the university in the form of student fees or monies from the university’s general fund.

The amount of money large, football-playing schools generate has even led for many to call to pay the players for the money that they are essentially responsible for bringing to the school.

The vast majority of colleges exist outside of Division I, playing in Division II and III as well as in the NAIA, the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) and several other smaller organizations. There is no profit to be made and no one watching on TV, save for parents watching an internet stream.

At this level, the budgets aren’t nearly as steep. Fewer to no athletic scholarships are given and travel is much more limited to regional competition and bus-able routes.

Still, the average Division II institution’s athletic budget as of the 2011-12 academic year was $4 million for schools without football and $5.3 million for schools with football.

According to the NCAA report, these schools generated an average of $624,000 in revenue, leaving the rest to be funded by the institution.

That is an expensive bill for the institutions to pick up.

However, institutions continue to fund and in many cases expand the department.

For those below the Division I level, the benefits outweigh the costs, and in many cases, the institutions are turning a “profit”off the programs.

The “profit” is students paying tuition. With far fewer athletic scholarships offered in lower divisions, the expense becomes far less for institutions.

The athletic department acts as a way for schools to attract students who normally wouldn’t be interested in attending.

At Providence Christian College in Pasadena, California, a school founded in 2005 with an attendance of more than 200 students, according to athletic director Dr. Chuck Ryor, athletics are a vital part of their enrollment. Almost half of the student population are athletes.

“Athletics is another means for us to reach college students who might otherwise not want to come to a liberal arts school, with the kind of theological emphasis we have,” Ryor said.

The college wants to continue to expand their enrollment to over 400. Expanding the athletic program to attract students is part of that.

The same is true for Life Pacific College, members of the NCCAA, in San Dimas, California. The school of 609 students cut the athletic program in 2007, but restarted it this year with women’s volleyball and men’s basketball, and plans to add men’s and women’s cross country, soccer, golf and women’s basketball over the next five years.

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Life Pacific’s new gym, hosting the men’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams.

“It’s a great avenue to bring more kids in and give them more opportunities to be in an athletic environment. It boosts numbers and it boosts financial numbers,” athletic director and head basketball coach Tim Cook said. “Minimal scholarship sports add to the overall value of the school. “

While Life Pacific and Providence Christian represent the smallest, most niche institutions, the small enrollment mean each student’s tuition is important in the funding of the university. But, they aren’t the only ones who see athletic programs as drivers of enrollment.

Danny Barnts, now the sports information director of Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego, says that during his time working at Western Oregon, the public university of 6,214 entertained adding junior varsity teams as a way to attract tuition—paying athletes with minimal expense.

Barnts offered Pacific University, in Oregon, as an example of this. The Division III institution offers seven JV programs along with 22 varsity teams, including a rare women’s wrestling team.

But for Barnts current institution, Point Loma, the Sea Lions don’t have the same need to drive enrollment as it is capped at 3,600.

There, the university’s 10 athletic teams are seen as a part of the student life of the university.

“Athletics is supposed to be one of the focuses of the student on campus entertainment for the regular students to add to the student life aspect,” Barnts said.

At Life Pacific, the benefits to campus culture are noticed as well.

“It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen, the environment that our sports have created for students,” Cook said. “People are painting their bodies, you can’t get a seat in our gym, and everything revolves around volleyball and basketball for the community to come out. It has transformed the campus.”

But small, private universities aren’t the only ones competing at lower levels. Cal Poly Pomona, a large, primarily commuter campus of 22,000, plays in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, a conference of state institutions in Division II.

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Cal Poly Pomona’s sprawling campus.

There, a student-athletes in-state tuition is far less important to institutional funding than it is at Life Pacific or Providence Christian.

The additional tuition of the Broncos’ 10 athletic teams has far less effect on their budget than private institutions. But along with the rest of the state-funded colleges in the conference, the Broncos spend money on athletics.

“The value overall is still has a big impact in terms of strengthening or weakening the university image,” said Ivan Alber,Cal Poly Pomona’s Assistant Athletics Director. “At Division II, I still think that athletics can slide the university’s image along the scale in either direction in terms of branding, recognition and notoriety.”

He also sees it as a benefit to the student-athletes themselves.

“They are not only achieving a bit more academic success and higher GPA than the general student body, but also their time management and leadership skills,” Abler said.

Another unique institution, Academy of Art University, has their own reasons for starting an athletic program in 2008. The university is a for-profit art and design institution in downtown San Francisco. They lack all of the traditional athletic facilities and instead rent different locations around the city for their programs.

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A campus map showcasing the unusualness of Academy of Art’s campus.

“We created a niche for art and athletics to exist simultaneously as an opportunity for students after high school,” Academy of Art’s Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Rob Garcia said.

He also added that the athletic program helps attract international athletes to the university.

Despite the money pits that athletics have become at the Divison I levels, where hundreds of schools take huge subsidies in hopes that they will one day join the ranks of the few who turn a profit, lower-level schools still get value out of their athletic programs.

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Fact Checking President Obama on Climate Change

In November 2015, President Barack Obama spoke at the UN Convention on Climate Change hosted in Paris, attended by more than 150 heads of state. Obama makes various claims about the state of the climate, as well as details some of the steps the United States have taken to curb gas emissions. His claims are fact-checked below. All of his quotes are offset in boxes.

It is important to remember that while man-made climate change is nearly unanimously—97 percent or more, according to the NASA Climate Change)—agreed upon in the scientific community, dissenting opinions on the effects of climate change and whether it is induced by humans still exist. Being of a rational mind, I’ve decided to use the scientific consensus as the basis for the following fact check, rather than the world of global conspiracy theory.

Rising Temperatures

Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000 — and 2015 is on pace to be the warmest year of all.

True, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the fourteen hottest years on record did take place between 2000-2015. President Obama’s prediction of 2015 becoming the warmest year on record came true. December 2015 ended up being one of the warmest months in history, with average temperatures rising 1.11°C (2.00°F) higher than their monthly average for the first time in history.

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Data from the National Centers for Environmental Information

 

It is important to understand how this data is calculated and the analyzed. The global average temperature has been measured since 1880, combining data from across the globe for all months. The current monthly average global temperature is then measured against the established average global temperature for that month based on the existing data. For example, as a year, 2015 was on average 1.62 degrees hotter than the average year.

Rising Sea Levels

“This summer, I saw the effects of climate change firsthand in our northernmost state, Alaska, where the sea is already swallowing villages and eroding shorelines; where permafrost thaws and the tundra burns; where glaciers are melting at a pace unprecedented in modern times.”

I’ll take a look at two claims made, first, that villages are being lost to rising sea-levels and second, that glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rate.

Alaska is particularly hard hit when it comes to rising temperatures, as the average winter has gotten 6.3 degrees warmer compared to the mainland United States. According to a Government Accountability Office report in 2009, 31 villages were deemed to be in immediate danger.

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Location of Newtok, Alaska 

The Atlantic did a piece about Newtok, Alaska, a village that has set in motion plans to relocate away from the rising water level. The village was situated on permafrost, a layer of tundra that used to remain permanently frozen but due to rising temperatures now thaws and erodes quickly. The erosion is what is forcing the village to move.

Glaciers:

The World Glacial Monitoring service claimed in a July 2015 article that the rate of glacial melt has been getting progressively higher. The rate is double now what it was in 1990s, and triple what it was in the 1980s. The study is based on data from a few hundred glaciers directly measured by the service, as well as observations of field and satellite photos of thousands of other glaciers.

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Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska. Photo from glacierchange.org

Renewables:

Over the last seven years…We’ve multiplied wind power threefold, and solar power more than twentyfold

Wind: greenmountainwindfarm_fluvanna_2004

According to the American Wind Energy Association, American wind energy capacity has risen from an output of roughly 25 gigawatts in 2008 to 75 gigawatts in 2015. This would make the president’s statement of a threefold improvement accurate. The industry is situated to continue to grow, with 9.4 gigawatts of capacity being installed in 2016.

Solar:

There is now 27.4 gigawatts of installed solar capacity in the US, according to the Solar Energy Industries association, there was 1.1 GW installed in the US in 2008. This is a sharp increase that can be attributed to a rise in both home solar systems and industrialized solar energy initiatives. Obama’s claim of a twenty-fold increase holds up.

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Carbon Emissions:

“We (the united states) will reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.”

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A table from the EPA report. 

American carbon emissions have dropped 9.3% from 2005 to 2014 according to an Environmental Protection Agency report , so a continued drop to 17% wouldn’t be out of the question and is likely with the continued growth of renewable energy. However, some believe that the Great Recession of 2007 can be credited with reducing the emissions. Economic growth has historically been tied to a rise in carbon emissions over the past forty years. (This Washington Post article explains the complications of decoupling the economy from carbon emissions). The complication is that the economy may be harmed as it transitions away from carbon-producing industries and jobs.

Last Generation

Finally, I’ll examine a more broad statement made by President Obama

As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.”

Jay Inslee, the current governor or Washington, was the originator of the thought.

Scientific American recently addressed the thought that we are the last generation that can do something about climate change. Their research suggested that a point of no return, when the parts per million of carbon reaches 450 in the atmosphere, would be reached in 2042 at the current rate of global carbon pollution. The mere 26-year window to find a long-term solution would suggest that time is running out on reducing carbon emissions substantially. The administration set a goal of 80% reduction for the United States by 2050. The good news is that global carbon emissions slowed to just .5% increase in 2014 after growing by nearly 4% annually for a decade according to an EU study.

The claim that the current generation of power brokers is the last with a chance to act on climate change is true. Further temperature increases would lead to a variety of severe consequences that would have global effects.

CIA forgets to remove explosives from school bus

The CIA left explosive material inside the engine compartment of a Loudoun County school bus. The bus was used during a training exercise for bomb sniffing dogs. The CIA said that the explosives weren’t dangerous, as it was a putty, or plastic explosive similar to C4, and needs a special detonator.

The explosive device made it past daily driver inspection due to its intended inconspicuousness and was in the bus for two days of ferrying students before being discovered during routine maintenance.

While it was apparently safe for students, it is still an absurd oversight that should never happen. Military grade explosives were on a school bus for two days! Good try, good effort CIA.

The program did say they would use better inventory control procedures for the program. Which, duh.

SeaWorld Announces that Current Orcas will be last

The once beloved amusement park/aquarium SeaWorld has announced that they will no longer keep orcas at their marine parks once the current ones die.

SeaWorld came under heavy criticism for its practices after the documentary Blackfish showcased the embarrassingly cruel practices of keeping killer whales in confinement. The whales are considered to be amongst the most intelligent animals and have been known to attack their handlers.

SeaWorld watched as their bottom line dwindled as public opinion swayed against their theatrical shows showcasing the Whales. This is an interesting first step in the ethics debate surrounding the keeping of animals. This is an interesting first step in the ethics debate surrounding the keeping of animals in confinement. It is scientifically accepted that the orcas have

This is an interesting first step in the ethics debate surrounding the keeping of animals in confinement. It is scientifically accepted that the orcas have social tendencies similar to humans, with strong family units. Human empathy was strong enough to sway public support against the SeaWorld practice of splitting these family units and keeping the animals in far too small habitats.

There are other animals that similarly have tremendous intelligence and social patterns kept in captivity including dolphins and elephants, and the debate will surely swing towards the humanity of keeping these animals in confinement.

The announcement from SeaWorld has been cause for celebration for many.

 

 

Metro Gold Line Foothill extension convenience attracts new customers

Like many residents of the San Gabriel Valley, I watched as progress slowly marched forward on the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension. The new light-rail line extended service from downtown Los Angeles to Azusa, from its previous terminus in Pasadena. Eventually, the Gold Line will run further east to Claremont, on Phase 2b of the extension.

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The Metro Gold Line Extension mapped.

I was excited. I had used the light rail in my hometown of Denver to get to downtown on a number of occasions. Maybe I could take this to my internship in Monrovia rather than sit in traffic on the 210—Interstate 210, for those unfamiliar with the California way of referring to every freeway as “the.” I wasn’t the only one that wanted relief on the freeways, many people in the San Gabriel Valley pushed for the nearly $1 billion extension, despite Metro rail lines never reaching so far into suburban bedroom communities before. It’s a new demographic, with a stretch of average to above average income areas being serviced continually, rather than the lower income, high-population-density areas that previously received rail service, according to the LA Times.

The plan was to leave from the Azusa Downtown station on Saturday morning at 10, for the 50-minute journey to Union Station, planning to walk to the (apparently) famous Olvera Street nearby the station and have lunch before returning home on the Gold Line.

My Girlfriend and I ended up catching the 10:15 train, although not without hassle, as I struggled to figure out how to use the machine to pay for the damn thing and almost missed the train.

The trained zipped out of the station headed south (well west, but it’s considered a north-south route) toward Irwindale and we took our seats.

I hear a recording repeat something about using a tapping card when boarding the train. My girlfriend hears it too, but we decide just to ignore it, after all, we paid.

Another young couple came and sat across from us as the train pulled out of the Arcadia station. We got to talking and found out they were doing the same thing we were.

“We just wanted to check things out. We normally just avoid going in to LA for fun,” Alecia Waters said. “Between traffic and parking, it’s not worth it to drive in.”

The four of us represent the type of passengers the Gold Line is hoping to attract. Metro projects 13,500 boarding a day from the extension by 2035.

“Part of why I’m doing this is to see how long it would take to get to the Wilshire and Western Station,” Waters’ boyfriend, Matt Lawson, explained. “I work near there, and the commute is normally over an hour, sometimes closer to two.”

We arrived at Union Station and headed down the steps, into the arms of fare inspectors. My girlfriend and I both looked at each other afraid that we were gong to be sent to Metro jail for not tapping our TAP card when boarding. The fare inspector took my card, tapped it, and handed it back. No Metro jail for me.

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The concourse at Union Station in LA.

We set out for Olvera Street. We looked lost apparently, as someone tried to offer us directions. We thought we knew where we were going and declined the generosity.

“Thought” is the key word, as we went the wrong direction proving just how novice we were at taking public transportation. I whipped out my phone and got pointed in the right direction.

While walking, I thought to myself how nice it was to not have to worry about driving unfamiliar streets while having directions barked at me searching for parking.

We finish the short walk to Olvera Street, enjoy an overpriced lunch at what turned out to be a tourist trap, and return to the station to catch the train back to Azusa.

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We made sure to use our TAP cards on the way back.

On the way back, I talk to a Jose Iglesias, a welder who works in Pasadena. He takes a bus to Union Station and catches the Gold Line to the South Pasadena exit.

“I’ve already noticed an increase in riders on weekday mornings coming into LA,” Iglesias says. “I’m thankful that I go against the rush.”

As the train headed back toward Azusa, I noticed a man with a push-cart full of bags. After a couple of stations, I asked him what he was doing.

“I go to the Trader Joe’s near the Sierra Madre station. I used to take the [Foothill Transit] 187 to get there, but now I take the train,” said Joe Worthington, a retiree living in Azusa.

“At my age, it’s easier than driving,” he explained.

I got off at the Azusa Downtown Station and walked the short block to my apartment.

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The Azusa Downtown Station

Despite the mistakes that came with my first time using the rail, it was easy and convenient. Most importantly to Metro, it appealed to a variety of people in a way that buses can not.