Tag Archives: NCAA

Digging into the UAB athletics announcement: A look at C-USA and SEC athletic budgets, subsidies and state appropriations

NCAA-logo-aloneThis weekend the group of NCAA Division I FBS conferences known as the “Power 5” and the “autonomy schools” approved long-talked about changes to their Division I governance laws. Reports from this year’s convention via USA Today showed that while they passed, it was not without disagreement.

The “cost of living” amendment passed 79-1 with the lone vote against raising concerns about the residual effects of such a change. It allows for schools to cover incidental costs associated with college in addition to tuition, room, and board. A proposal to allow for student-athletes to be able to receive guaranteed four-year scholarships barely passed, with representatives from the SEC and Big 12 among those arguing against the concept. These votes are significant for UAB as a member of Conference USA given comments made by league commissioner, Britton Banowsky, before the beginning of the academic year suggesting members schools were prepared to pay athletes the full cost of attendance. A look at publicly available numbers tell a different story.

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a report in March 2014 titled “An Era of Neglect.” The accompanying database was the one referenced by Yellowhammer News in the post published in September and cited previously in this series. Below is a table showing data compiled from both that database and one maintained by USA Today since 2005 showing revenues, expenses, and subsidies for public colleges and universities participating in collegiate sports. Ours extracts data from the USA Today database while adding two additional pieces — the percentage of the overall budget for the institution compromised of state appropriations and the change of percentage between where it was in 1987 and in 2012 — from the Chronicle for Higher Education’s database. A decision was made to focus on member schools in both Southeastern Conference and Conference USA to provide context and perspective. Adding the numbers in the last two columns together (and remembering to add the number in the last column instead of subtracting, so, for example, taking 29.9 and 26.1 — and NOT -26.1 — for Florida) will give you will allow you to determine the institution’s total state appropriation in 1987 (56% for our example).

SchoolTotal RevenueTotal ExpensesTotal Subsidy% Subsidy% overall budget from state, 2012% +/- 1987-2012
Ole Miss$73,390,050$71,315,807$3,831,5985.2227.7-19.7
Miss. State$62,764,025$57,362,224$3,000,0004.7836.7-12.0
Texas A&M$93,957,906$85,114,588$590,9730.6332.5-16.9
Florida Atlantic$24,538,411$21,967,412$16,590,46867.6149.4-23.2
LA Tech$18,570,493$18,444,386$9,214,68249.6237.6-14.2
Middle TN St.$27,667,552$28,716,516$19,613,16170.8925.6-41.6
UNC Charlotte$26,681,829$26,122,465$18,667,99469.9750.3-17.0
North Texas$28,800,436$28,926,470$17,628,42661.2134.2-29.1
Old Dominion$36,929,483$35,561,455$27,089,35873.3543.8-16.5
Southern Miss$22,776,416$22,399,056$9,802,77443.0435.9-15.0

It’s worth noting that UAB saw the smallest reduction in state appropriations among the schools with records available (both Vanderbilt and Rice are private institutions). They received the third lowest state appropriation percentage-wise in C-USA while providing more than 64% in subsidies to athletics (the sixth highest amount by percentage in the conference). There are also four member schools in C-USA in 2013 with expenses exceeding revenue (Marshall, Middle Tennessee St., UT-San Antonio, and Western Kentucky). The school with the second highest subsidy by percentage in C-USA (Old Dominion, 73.35%) is one of three in Virginia that may be specifically affected by proposed legislation mandating that its 15 state-funded institutions derive no more than 70% of their athletic budgets from student fees and other subsidies from their general budgets. Schools participating in the Football bowl Subdivision would not be able to spend more than 20%, meaning they could potentially be forced to withdraw from C-USA (as reported late last week on PilotOnline.com). It would also prevent student fees and tuition from being raised solely for the purpose of funding athletics.

It makes sense to revisit NCAA president Mark Emmert’s comments after the announcement of the discontinuation of three athletic teams at UAB — via video — and in light of the collected data.

CORRECTION – 5:15 p.m., 1/19/2015: An earlier version of this post stated that UAB had the eighth highest athletic subsidy in Conference USA. It has the sixth highest.

Digging into the UAB athletics announcement: The Joseph Volker equation

“We would do Birmingham a great disservice if we dreamed too-little dreams.”

– Joseph Volker

Joseph Volker as chancellor - UA ArchivesElizabeth, New Jersey native Joseph Volker adopted the heart of central Alabama as his own when he arrived in 1948 and always dreamed big. He cared greatly for this city and the university he helped found here, having the opportunity to impact both as not only its first president but as the first chancellor of the University System of Alabama.

He also never chose to start a football team at UAB while in either of those positions. The first team to ever take the field was approved only three months after he passed away. It’s not an angle many have not focused; most have chosen to focus on what Gene Bartow’s wishes would’ve been for the future of athletics. It only made sense to take a look at things that would’ve influenced Volker’s opinions on the issue — and to “hear” from the man himself.

Stops along the way

A look at Volker’s previous stops before his arrival in Birmingham (as listed in his Encyclopedia of Alabama entry) helps to start understanding why this may have been the case. He earned his undergraduate degree from Indiana University’s Dental School in 1936 after starting his collegiate career closer to home at Rutgers in 1932. That dental school is now part of Indiana University Purdue University Institute in Indianapolis. It did not start an athletics program until 1972 and, though choosing to go Division I, has never fielded a football team.

He continued his education at the University of Rochester, earning A.B., masters, and doctoral degrees. Volker would have been exposed to a football team, but not one that gave athletic scholarships. The Yellowjackets currently compete in Division III (though apparently their squash team is a perennial contender in non-NCAA sponsored competition).

His final destination before his move to the southeastern United States and what became UAB was Tufts Dental School in Boston, Massachusetts. The Jumbos do field a football teamone significant in the annals of the sport’s history. They are credited with not only playing the first game ever using what’s now known as the “forward pass” in 1875 against Harvard (a game they won 1-0), but for being one of the only schools in the country that does not allow their team to compete in postseason play. This is a strict adherence to the concept of being student-athletes and a reason they chose to become a Division III school when the designation was created in 1973. It also becomes glaring when you realize the 1927 Tufts football team went undefeated at 8-0 (as did the 1934 and 1979 squads); they joined Pittsburgh as the only two squads to do so that year (though Pittsburgh had one tie). Tufts outscored its opponents 218 to 19 that year. For comparison, the 1927 Alabama Crimson Tide went 5-4-1 (3-4-1 in the Southern Conference), finishing in 10th place that year behind a 7-0-1 Georgia Tech squad. There were no divisions in the NCAA at that time.

Editors note: There are a few other tidbits about Alabama’s 1927 season to consider as the overall UAB athletics story moves forward. The Crimson Tide only played three games in Tuscaloosa that fall; two non-conference games were at the beginning of the season, winning 46-0 over Millsaps and 31-0 over Southwestern Presbyterian. The only other game played at old Denny Field that season was against the school now known as Mississippi State; they won the homecoming contest 13-7 in front of 7,000 people. They played the rest of their “home” games on the road – three at Rickwood Field; one at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery; and their last two at their new “home” in Birmingham – Legion Field. Those first two ever home games in Legion Field were losses – to Georgia (in front of 25,000 people) and Vanderbilt (in front of 20,000).

A debt to the Crimson Tide

Volker tells the following story during his “The University and the City” speech to those gathered at the Newcomen Society in North America event on November 3, 1971. It speaks volumes as to a major reason a team never materialized during his tenure; it’s about the lack of housing options available for students shortly before the start of the 1945 academic year (emphasis added):

“Despite these extraordinary measures, the venture would have failed except for an unusual degree of administrative entrepreneurship. This was clearly evident when no legislative funds were forthcoming to provide housing for the students, faculty, and staff – and in the immediate post World War II period, living accommodations were in very short supply. The dilemma was resolved by the purchase of the residential properties that occupied the half block between 8th and 9th Avenues South and faced on 20th Street. This was made possible by a loan of approximately $350,000 from the University [of Alabama]’s Physical Education Fund of the Department of Athletics.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. By the way, the loan amount provided by the Crimson Tide converted to 2014 dollars is estimated to be valued at north of $4.5 million. The property is now the current home of the Doubletree Hotel on Birmingham’s Southside. It’s also adjacent to the space used recently by the UAB Faculty Senate during the no-confidence process in December 2014 and January 2015.

He continued, “As a newcomer to Alabama, I was immediately impressed with and am eternally grateful to the Crimson Tide.

A version of this story also appears in Tennant McWilliams’s written history of UAB, “New Lights in the Valley: The Emergence of UAB,” though the impact of the gesture on Volker is not mentioned. The book also contains a quote attributed to the then freshly-minted university president shortly after taking office in 1969. He was asked about the possibility of a football team during his first faculty meeting, albeit lightheartedly according to the author (p. 273). His answer, “Not currently part of the plan.”

This is not to say he never considered it, but another quote included in McWilliams’s book (p. 355), attributed to former University of Alabama administrator J. Jefferson Bennett, shines a light on why it wasn’t necessarily a priority:

“Joe [Volker] understood that football was the ultimate source of security for UA after the embarrassments associated with desegregation, despite many non-football accomplishments at [the University of] Alabama.”

The chancellorship

Joseph Volker was named the first chancellor for the University System of Alabama in 1976. He announced his retirement in 1982, choosing to return to UAB as a distinguished professor. One of his last interviews as chancellor was with The Tuscaloosa News on July 18, 1982. The front page, above the fold article was wide-ranging. This excerpt that follows should draw interest to those paying close attention to the current #FreeUAB movement attempting to take root in Birmingham — especially in terms of their beliefs of how UAB is treated by the University System’s board of trustees:

“Advocates of the University of Alabama’s historic campus in Tuscaloosa were opposed to the additional control being instituted over the campus. And by then an intense rivalry had developed between the University campus in Tuscaloosa and the booming UAB, and Volker’s appointment fueled fears in Tuscaloosa that with Volker’s ties, UAB would flourish at the expense of the traditional campus. Through the years, angry Tuscaloosa County legislators and others complained of incidents they said demonstrated that Volker either restrained or helped raid the Tuscaloosa institution to enhance UAB.”

The article goes on to point out frustration throughout Alabama in terms of the lack of restraint applied on any of the three campuses (i.e., growth and distribution of funds). Volker’s response to the accusations in 1982 is one worth considering currently as reform via legislation is being suggested:

“I think we have a system that’s flexible and we have three very different institutions, and I don’t find it surprising that the campuses have different needs and different opportunities. The campuses are in different stages of development. You have to view them in different contexts. You can’t view it as what’s good for one of them is right for another.”

Joseph Volker passed away on May 3, 1989, having been back at UAB for parts of seven academic years. Then UAB president Charles “Scotty” McCallum gave the school’s athletic director, Gene Bartow, permission to field a club team at UAB that August. It seems somewhat coincidental that “the father of UAB athletics” did not receive permission to field a football team until after the passing of “the father of UAB.”

UAB after Volker

The move was one done to help with the university’s image, especially in light of how it was described by the Wall Street Journal in October 1998:

“While UAB is one of the state’s biggest employers, many Alabamians think of it as nothing more than an urban night school.”

It’s a belief that appears to continue to this day, even in Tuscaloosa, as evidenced in this editorial (pay special attention to page 2) penned shortly after the decision to discontinue bowling, football, and rifle in December. The editorial (as well as the excerpt from the WSJ article above) shows the idea of adding football to change perceptions about UAB, specifically in the South, possibly drove McCallum to allow Bartow to field a team. This is despite knowing the fiscal strain it could place on UAB specifically, and the University System as a whole, as state appropriations to the schools were being reduced as far back as 1987.

McCallum was correct when he said the decision to end football was not one normally considered by the Board of Trustees, in part because he exploited that “gentleman’s agreement” policy when he sidestepped them and announced plans to start the team in 1989. McCallum’s concerns are primarily about protecting the autonomy with regard to athletics that he’d carved out with his decisions. Your opinion about whether or not that freedom still exists depends on how you choose to look at the decision to cut the three teams — and whether you believe the conspiracy theory or the numbers in relation to the University System’s current data.

It is interesting to note that one of the urban universities often cited when talking about the reasons UAB started a program is the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. Before returning to the field in 2013, the 49ers last fielded a football team in 1948, after only two seasons. When UNC-Charlotte was looking to bring the team back, one of the schools they reached out to was… UAB. The responses shared via The Business of College Sports the day after the UAB athletics announcement were quite enlightening. They implied that issues did arise as a result of the decision to start football and that they continued to exist.

As UAB, Birmingham, and Alabama continue to dream big dreams for its future, some will have to determine whether or not it will neglect the lessons taught in its past. Perhaps listening to Joseph Volker would help.

CORRECTION, 1.20.2015: An earlier version of this piece stated Volker’s arrival at UAB occurred in 1945. Volker actually arrived in 1948, though the story told during his “The University and the City” speech references an incident in 1945. Special thanks to UAB Archives for bringing the error in question to our attention.

Miles College’s interim basketball coach debuts tonight

The men’s basketball team at Miles College will take to the hardwood tonight in Jackson, TN to face Lane College at 7:30 p.m.. There will officially be a new head coach at the reigns for the Golden Bears when that happens.

Will Cotchery. Miles College athleticsThe college announced earlier this week that fourth year head coach Christopher Giles had been released effective immediately. Giles had not coached the team since January 6, when he was suspended for “personnel issues.”

Interim Miles athletic director Dr. Chico Caldwell also announced that Birmingham, AL native Will Cotchery would continue serving as interim head coach until the end of the season and that a search for a permanent replacement would start at that time.

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The Rhodes lead to Birmingham

While the participants in this story are not tied to Birmingham directly, the results are definitely the type of thing that folks in the Magic City like to be associated with. Steve Kallas’ blog, Kallas Remarks, has a rundown of the details surrounding Florida State safety Myron Rolle‘s predicament – interview here in Birmingham on Saturday to be a Rhodes Scholar, play in Saturday’s game against Maryland, or both (one that speaks to what it means to be a student-athlete, with the emphasis on student, in the ESPN/Internet driven world of sports).

It also may shine a little light on the fact that despite all of the cheering that we do on Saturday mornings, it’s still supposed to be about great individuals like Rolle getting an education, isn’t it?