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Do Georgia colleges need so many sports?

Regents begin an audit of college athletic costs

Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 9:25 AM
Last updated 7:12 PM
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ATLANTA -- Every athletic program at Georgia’s public colleges and universities is coming under review, but it’s not coming from the NCAA, a conference or other sanctioning body.

Kennesaw State in the Atlanta suburbs is launching a football program  Kennesaw State University photo
Kennesaw State University photo
Kennesaw State in the Atlanta suburbs is launching a football program

The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia ordered its auditing staff to conduct a first-ever, top-to-bottom examination of the programs at the 30 schools that offer intercollegiate sports. It promises to be comprehensive, including finances, facilities, operations and compliance with the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the requirements in federal law known as Title IX mandating equal provisions for men’s and women’s activities.

Since the auditors are accountants by training, they are being advised by a handful of athletic directors from various schools within the system. They are just beginning their work and hope to have a report to the regents early next year.

“I expect we’re going to see a lot of variety,” said John Fuchko, the system’s chief auditor and associate vice chancellor.

The variety will be due to the range of schools, from the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech which have garnered national championships in multiple sports including their big-time football programs, to the College of Coastal Georgia which just competes in men’s basketball, golf and tennis and five women’s sports.

For decades, the regents’ policy was to butt out of the operation of athletics, leaving all the decisions to individual schools. That changed in March of last year when Kennesaw State University was seeking to launch football and Savannah State University wanted to move up to Division I.

When the board approved both requests, it also revised its policy to one of greater oversight in the 30 programs.

As a result of the Atlanta staff staying on the sidelines, each program evolved separately.

“When you compile all the data, you’re going to be amazed,” said Regent Donald Leebern. “You’ll see some with $100 million budgets and some with a $1 million budget.”

Indeed, the UGA Bulldog football team is valued at $90 million alone, according to Forbes magazine. Its $53 million annual profit places it at the top of the Southeastern Conference and third-most profitable in the country, by the magazine’s figuring.

Savannah State, on the other hand, just raised the athletic fee students pay to partially address a $5.9 million debt racked up since stepping up its competition. The team lost $970,000 last year.

“Our students understand and want us to be active and competitive in that conference,” said SSU Vice President Edward Jolly.

The schools’ athletic foundations will also get scrutiny, even though they are already subject to annual audits. Trustees have been notified. So, the review won’t just focus on the accounting, but also the management, including exploring the validity of well-known rumors that some university presidents use foundation funds for glossing over the costs of their bad judgment or for funding their perks like personal drivers.

Athletic programs are supposed to be self-supporting, at least when alumni gifts are counted. Typically, lucrative sports that draw fans, television contracts and playoff bonuses subsidize sports with smaller followings. Often, those are women’s sports.

Leebern predicted that the coaches will be as eager to see the report as the regents because they’ll be looking for evidence of inequity between men and women.

“You’ll have a little pushback on that,” he warned.

One expected benefit from the process is closer cooperation between athletic directors at the various schools. They don’t regularly meet with each other now, although it’s common for them to meet with colleagues within the conferences their teams compete in.

During the review, they’ll be able to share ideas on common issues, such as safeguarding students’ health and assuring academic success.

“Even though we have competitive teams on the playing field, we hope we can take some of these ideas to share,” Fuchko said.

How each school is coping with the major trends in student sports could bring insights. But Fuchko said his staff isn’t going to tackle the most controversial one, the angling of athletes to form labor unions in order to win financial compensation.

And he cautioned the regents not to expect a list of simple policy recommendations that can apply to all of the schools. The diversity is too great, he said.

Comments (13) Add comment
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bright idea
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bright idea 08/23/14 - 10:01 am
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What's the real agenda?

This is a good idea but there's more to this than bean counting. Leebern and his gal are trying to find out who has favored status besides them.

Dixieman
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Dixieman 08/23/14 - 10:53 am
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We need...

...quidditch, badminton, curling, hammer toss, and ten pin bowling.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 08/23/14 - 10:54 am
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College football has never

College football has never been something I followed even though I enjoyed going to some Georgia games years ago.

So I was at a loss when I read about the team losing 970K. I thought it was decided that college football players could form unions and be paid for their participation. How do you pay the players when you lose almost a million dollars? Was the money lost because of low attendance? Does the school pay for the uniforms?

Sorry, I'm totally clueless.

Esctab
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Esctab 08/23/14 - 02:01 pm
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Hummm......

And just exactly how is the name Fuchko pronounced?

Travis Highfield
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Travis Highfield 08/23/14 - 05:05 pm
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You're talking about Savannah State, hoptoad.

It has fielded teams intermittently since 1915 and continuously since 1946. SSU has posted a winning record only 19 times, and the most recent winning season was in 1998. It simply can't produce a team that can compete at the DI level. In my opinion, the school shouldn't have been allowed to make the jump.

Connor Threlkeld
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Connor Threlkeld 08/23/14 - 07:22 pm
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I still can't believe Georgia

I still can't believe Georgia State was in such a hurry to go FBS. Going from no program to D1 in a few years is insane. UT San Antonio pulled it off because there's unreal amounts of talent in Texas, but they could have just as easily foundered. Now, GState plays in a mostly empty stadium and loses almost all of its games.

I hope Ga. Southern is able to compete at the top level, because my worst fear when I heard they were moving up is that a great regional power, in a great regional conference, with traditional rivalries, was going to move up only to struggle in matchups with Idaho, New Mexico State and Texas State.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 08/23/14 - 07:41 pm
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Schools hoping to pay for

Schools hoping to pay for their programs have to move up to FBS. Big schools will rarely play FCS schools in the future so that big game money is less than it used to be. GA State and Ga So will be able to get many big money games.

Connor Threlkeld
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Connor Threlkeld 08/23/14 - 08:58 pm
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The big money games are an

The big money games are an issue, definitely. I've heard about those dwindling in the future.

But I think in many cases the costs of moving up to FBS far outweigh the increased revenue. Otherwise, the student athletic fees at GaSouthern wouldn't have jumped so much. More athletic scholarships, more expensive coaches, more athletic department staff, higher travel costs, more expensive facilities. All in pursuit of Sun Belt TV money and a couple of big dollar football games a year.

I hope for nothing but the best for Georgia Southern, I want it to work out great. I just wonder whether it's worth the cost. Especially when I see what happened at GaState. Costs skyrocketed to support a feeble football team that's one of the biggest jokes in college football.

But I wonder about that for my own alma mater, Texas Tech. My school spends $70 million a year on sports, and while I like seeing them on the field, I don't really see the point of that level of spending.

KSL
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KSL 08/23/14 - 09:03 pm
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No, and no thanks to Title 9.

No, and no thanks to Title 9. How many sports teams can earn their way? How many women's teams can earn their way? Let them pay their own way. Division 3 schools give academic scholarships to athletes who want to play as well as learn. They don't expect a free ride.

KSL
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KSL 08/23/14 - 09:16 pm
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It needs to be totally

It needs to be totally revamped. Get rid of the major class thugs and their girl friends taking advantage of misdirected supporters like my brother and brother-in- law. They lived and breathed UGA sports. Yuk. Unfortunately they didn't find out early on there was more to life

Young Fred
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Young Fred 08/24/14 - 03:02 am
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Are you suggesting

Pop athletes are allowed to get away with intimidating behavior in our schools of higher learning?

corgimom
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corgimom 08/24/14 - 07:54 am
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It always made me mad to have

It always made me mad to have to pay student athletics fees. I went to college for an education, not so that athletes could get a free ride.

When I was in grad school at ASU, we had a woman that was an Olympic ping pong player in her home country. She was very pleasant and nice, but could barely speak or write English, and was there because of her Ping-Pong playing skills. Everybody used to hate having her in their groups, because they had to do her work for her, she couldn't pull her share of the load.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 08/24/14 - 08:10 am
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It should be noted:

"This is particularly true for the top SEC schools. Florida led the way last year, contributing $7.2 million to academic programming, with $1.5 million of that earmarked for non-athletic scholarships. Alabama wasn’t far behind, providing nearly $6.5 million to the university to help pay for scholarships, faculty support and the school’s Acts of Kindness fund. Other big donors were Ohio State ($5 million) and Georgia ($4 million)." USA Today

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