Inside the Capitol

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1-15 Athletic Expenses

FRI, 1-15-10

SANTA FE - University of New Mexico administrative expenses continue to be a favorite whipping boy when state budget-cutting conversations arise.
Although salaries and expenses of administrative staff at other colleges and universities in the state aren't frequently publicized, they do come in for criticism too.
We are told salaries must be high in order to attract the best but is that argument just copied from the one used by captains of industry, where everybody helps everyone else get the biggest salaries they can?
UNM football expenses also are getting beat up on. Basketball spending is escaping consternation while the team is winning. Those victories are helping pack the Pit despite the inconvenience of the construction project to expand the arena.
But revenues from the big basketball crowds will never play the role of revenues from big time college football. A story floated around several months ago that Alabama football coach Nick Saban bailed out that university's $3 million deficit with a contribution from the athletic department.
New Mexico's two largest universities are learning the value of big time college football. UNM plays in the Mountain West Conference and New Mexico State University plays in the Western Athletic Conference. Both conferences did well during the recent bowl season
National Collegiate Athletic Association rules call for bowl participants to share their revenues with the other universities in their conference. Although neither the Lobos nor Aggies qualified for a bowl game this year, they both will get help with their athletic budgets courtesy of the top teams in their conferences.
Our two big schools might do even better were it not for the stranglehold that the very big daddies have on college football. The mightiest conferences have formed what they call the Bowl Conference Series.
They picked the richest of the bowl games around the country and said only teams in their BCS conferences will play in those bowl games. After some pressure, they relented and said they would allow one or two non-BCS teams to play in the big bowls. Those teams often come from the Mountain West or WAC conferences.
It usually requires a perfect record to go play with the big boys and our regional conferences have done very well for themselves and for us. The BCS bowls bring in big time money - in the vicinity of $20 million to split among the teams and their conferences.
This year, Boise State University and Texas Christian University won the two conferences NMSU and UNM are in. It is highly likely that the top teams in the BCS put out the word that they did not want to play either team.
For some reason, the teams from the smaller conferences perform much better than they should, according to the sports analysts. The reason given is usually that the little guys play with a chip on their shoulder because they are overlooked.
Whatever the reason for our dominance, the big boys managed to avoid having to play either Boise State or TCU by having them play each other. It took a lot of fun out of watching that bowl game because it eliminated the David and Goliath scenario.
But it did provide a big chunk of money for athletic budgets at two New Mexico universities. And it may cause our Legislature to look a little more closely at those athletic budgets.



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