What Was the Point, President Kennedy?

Mark Kennedy addresses people after being selected as the next President of the University of North Dakota Tuesday at the Gorecki alumni center. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

New University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy impressed me when he rolled onto campus and appeared unafraid to put sports programs, a sacred cow on America’s campuses, on the chopping block to address the university’s budget shortfalls. He was following up on the work begun by interim President Ed Schafer.

Kennedy called on the 18-member Intercollegiate Athletic Committee to review the 20 sports programs the university currently maintains for possible cuts.

It was a fraught process which saw grownups weeping over softball and local sports reporters gnashing their teeth in fury, and at the end of it Kennedy appears to have lost his nerve.

UND will be making no cuts to athletics. It will maintain all 20 of its current programs. In fact it seems as though Kennedy has accepted the committee’s recommendation that the school increase institutional funding to the sports programs.

So the result wasn’t cuts but more spending.

I guess the academic programs will have shoulder the brunt of the needed budget adjustments. Which is just shoddy priorities.

But what was the point? It seems like if you’re going to convene a committee to help you make tough choices – a committee which would upset members of the UND community – then perhaps you ought to use the opportunity to actually make a tough choice or two.

Meanwhile, subsidizing athletics programs with institutional dollars and student fees amounted to just over $700 per student in 2015 according to data disclosed to the NCAA:

image (4)

That’s an improvement for UND over previous years, but you have to wonder why athletics programs should make the cost of attending a university like UND more expensive at all.

By the way, as a point of comparison, NDSU does a much better job of protecting students from the costs of athletics programs. Their subsidy-per-student number is about $558, though I’d argue that anything north of zero for any university is unacceptable.

Sports on campus should not take resources from the institution’s academic mission. They should not inflate the cost of attendance for students. They should exist on their own revenues and/or voluntary fees and contributions.

UPDATE: I originally described President Kennedy as having created the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee. That committee actually already existed. He merely tasked them with the review of sports programs.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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