Published April 24, 2012 - 8:36am
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“Boy, put down that there book and get out here and throw the pigskin around. I’ve had it with all your lernin. How do you expect Coach Meyer to bring you on the team if you always have your head up some book!” – Alachua County Resident, 2008
Things must not be looking promising at quarterback as the Florida Gators approach the 2012 season. The University of Florida has decided to cut the budget of its computer science program eliminating many of the resources for graduate level study and research. Meanwhile, the University’s athletic budget has actually increased roughly $2 million while cutting the computer science program has resulted in savings of roughly $1.5 million. Clearly, the University values football over academics. Gridiron success over technological achievement.
At least that’s what columns like this one would have you think.
Unfortunately, the world of college football is full of myths. Players are exploited. Coaches have as much loyalty to their employer as fans do to their team. Universities fire professors to fund stadium expansion.
While the cuts to the computer science department in Gainesville can be debated (and probably should), it has nothing to do with athletics. The reality is that the athletic budget and the budget for academic departments like the computer science department are completely separate. Moreover, the athletic program actually contributes money to the academic budget.
I graduated from the University of Florida with a computer science degree. You might expect me to be outraged. I’m not.
Frankly, this is another sign of the strains of the higher education bubble. A bubble where media and politicians together have decided that a college degree is essentially an entitlement. Like any industry that becomes subsidized by the government (health care, housing, etc), it results in a nasty combination of decreased quality and increased prices. Eventually, funds and/or demand shrink putting a strain on an industry that has grown too much.
Cutting the computer science department is a direct result of decreased funds from the state government. Nothing more. Should the University potentially cut elsewhere rather than what is essentially one of America’s only booming industries? Probably, but that’s an entirely separate argument from linking academic cuts to an increased football budget.
What the writer of the Forbes column is essentially saying is that football should subsidize more of the academic programs if the government can’t fund them. Essentially, football in and of itself has no value, but its value can only be derived from how much it pays for academic institutions that are not self-sustainable.
College football is frankly in a dangerous position. It’s the main revenue driver for nearly every major athletic department in the country. It will be an easy target as University funding issues persist amidst state government budget crunches and increasing numbers of young people don’t see the value in a weakened degree funded by a hundred grand in student loans.
Universities and education in general are prime talking points of politicians and media pundits, where college football is really only watched by the Alachua County Resident mentioned above, right?
Perhaps, the mainstream media thinks that the athletic departments of major universities are run by good ol’ boys resembling Buddy Garrity, constantly manipulating the purse strings of the powers-that-be in an attempt to add a few more inches to the size of the stadium jumbo-tron.
Expect this misrepresentation of athletic budgets and academic cuts to continue. As the revenue numbers climb for football programs and academic budgets shrink, the tension and ratcheting up of the political rhetoric will only increase. The occasional Congressman from Utah trying to interfere in the BCS has the potential to turn into hundreds of politicians trying to make a name for themselves by re-distributing football revenues in the name of the greater good.
We’ll address that at the appropriate time, however. For now, we have bigger issues to consider. Like trying to figure out how Florida intends to put the ball in the end zone in 2012.