Betting the farm. On a stadium.

How one university is going for broke with a new stadium.

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting story about Colorado State University’s plan to solve all of its problems with a new stadium. The University is, in common with many other public institutions in the US, in a difficult financial position. But the response at Colorado State is a distinctive one – they are planning to build a new football stadium at a cost of $226 million as the way out of the crisis.

So, what’s the plan?

Colorado State is a middling football team in the Mountain West Conference, competing against respectable but not stellar athletic programs. The stadium plan relies on the hypothesis that if the university has great facilities, it will be able to recruit better athletes, sell more tickets and (this is the end game) attract more out-of-state students to help make up for a steep drop in state funding.

“At the end of the day, athletics is part of what drives national attention for the university,” said Kyle Henley, director of public relations and business and community development for the Colorado State system. “We’re a university on the rise and fundamentally, at the end of the day, if we’re not part of that national conversation at the athletic level, we’re missing out on opportunities.”

Yet some sports economists and faculty members who say they’re being stonewalled by the administration are warning against the gamble.

Colorado State President Tony Frank has vowed to keep the process public, and CSU System Chancellor Mike Martin said “the fact that we haven’t publicly debated those folks, doesn’t mean [their economic projections] aren’t relevant to our discussions.”

It’s a bold move but really seems like an extraordinarily optimistic and expensive gamble. It’s hard to imagine a similar move happening in the UK.

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‘University of Nike’ in Oregon

A huge investment in university sport.

 

The New York Times has a report on the opening of a hugely expensive new facility to enhance the University of Oregon’s football programme. It comes courtesy of a sizeable donation from one of the founders of Nike.

The Football Performance Center, which was unveiled publicly this week, is as much country club as football facility, potentially mistaken for a day spa, or an art gallery, or a sports history museum, or a spaceship — and is luxurious enough to make N.F.L. teams jealous. It is, more than anything, a testament to college football’s arms race, to the billions of dollars at stake and to the lengths that universities will go to field elite football programs.

The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alumnus and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the complex Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the center’s cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)

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The tour lasted more than three hours and covered the full 145,000 square feet of the complex (with 60,000 additional square feet of parking). Nike and its relationship with Oregon are obvious early and throughout. One small logo outside the Ducks’ locker room featured the university’s mascot, wearing a top hat adorned with a dollar sign. Oregon football is often viewed through that lens by outsiders, who derisively have christened Oregon as Nike University.

A video is available here which gives a flavour of this extraordinary facility. The characterisation of the college football competition as an arms race seems particularly apposite. This level of investment for just one sport at a university is breathtaking.

Go Ducks!

Is this the future for UK university sport?

Some US universities spend a LOT on sport

A recent Bloomberg report on US universities expenditure on sport highlights the huge amounts spent by Rutgers, which tops the list of spending:

Like most of Rutgers University’s almost 30,000 undergraduates, Matt Cordeiro has never put on shoulder pads and played football on a Saturday before a sea of scarlet-clad fans.

Yet Rutgers athletic teams cost him almost $1,000 this year, the most among schools competing in the top category of college football. The total includes mandatory student fees and university funding of the money-losing sports program, both of which rose more than 40 percent in five years. That’s enough to buy meals for more than a month, or books for a semester, or student health insurance for almost a year.

Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg for the fiscal year ended last June. It was at least the second straight year at the top of the list for the state university of New Jersey, despite cost-cutting after lawmakers and faculty protested that academics were losing out.

These really are frighteningly large figures. Indeed the scale of sport in general in US universities is just so much grander than in the UK it really is difficult to comprehend. How long though before we see this kind of calculation and league table appearing in the UK?

League Tables: Football and Higher Education Compared

A rather different angle on the development of a ‘quality culture’

A nice read for over the Christmas break this, an article by Malcolm Tight of Lancaster University from Higher Education Quarterly nearly 10 years ago:  Do League Tables Contribute to the Development of a Quality Culture? Football and Higher Education Compared.

The abstract:

The increasing use of league tables to summarise the relative performance of universities suggests an explicit analogy with association football. The extent to which this analogy is useful is explored through a comparison between the operation of the Premier and Nationwide Football Leagues and Universities and Colleges in England and Wales. This comparison considers issues such as what the league tables actually measure, how performance is linked to rewards or penalties, what mechanisms are available for improving performance, and what similarities there are between the locations of more or less successful football clubs and universities.

It’s a distinctive and entertaining look at football and university league tables.

 

(This is the last post here until the new year. Normal service will be resumed after the holidays.)

Now students can study football

I’ve posted before on various degree courses which sound a bit, well, bonkers. The Daily Mail loves this stuff and gets very excited when something like a degree in footy comes along:

The finer points of the offside rule are not on the curriculum.

But a Championship club is offering its expertise in other aspects of the beautiful game by launching a university degree in football.

new student in Burnley

Burnley student


Burnley FC will enrol undergraduates on a three-year Bachelor of Arts (Honours) course with lectures to be held in classrooms overlooking the pitch in its stadium.

The club is the first to offer a full honours degree in football and is aiming to add income from the £3,200-a-year course to money from ticket sales and merchandise.

Sounds pretty rigorous to me. As I’m sure the Mail would agree.