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Athletic spending at EMU hurts education, report says

Apr 26, 2016

An ever-increasing athletic budget deficit at Eastern Michigan University is hurting the school's academic mission.

That's according to a report  submitted recently to EMU's Board of Regents and issued by the president of the Faculty Senate, the president of the student body, the chair of the Faculty Senate Budget and Resources Committee, and the treasurer of the EMU-AAUP.

The report says athletic spending has outstripped revenues by $52 million in the last two years combined, and over the past ten years, more than 80% of the athletic budget on average has been subsidized by the general fund, which is generated from tuition, fees, and state funding.

The report says one reason for increased spending is the growth of athletic department staff, which increased by 21 personnel between 2006-07 and 2015-16 – compared to a drop of ten in the number of faculty during the same period.

"Tens of millions of dollars every year are diverted from helping students get through with lower tuition, with more classes, with more faculty, with smaller classes, with retention efforts to help them through. All those resources should be put into those core mission activities as opposed to Division I football," said EMU professor Howard Bunsis, who co-authored the report. 

"Trying to play on the same field as U of M and Michigan State, it doesn't make any sense from any standpoint whatsoever," Bunsis said. "There's no attendance to support it. There's no cultural history here to support it. There's no fan base to support it. There's no contribution dollars to support it."

EMU is first in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in the percent and amount of subsidy for athletics, according to the report.  

"It's just not justifiable to take one-seventh of every student's tuition dollar and throw it at athletics," said  Bunsis. 

The report says in 2015, each student paid $917 out of pocket to support athletics at EMU.

While affirming that there is a place for athletics at EMU, the report identifies a range of options to consider for reducing the athletic budget subsidy. One is for EMU to drop  Division I football and join the Horizon League. 

Board of Regents Chair Michael Morris said the Board is reviewing the report. 

"We are going to do all that we can to control costs," said Morris. "We are going to do all that we can to increase the contributions that come to the Athletic Department by its own efforts."

But Morris said there will be no step down from Division I football or the MAC.