Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

EDITORIAL >>We’re No. 1

Speaking of national rankings, finally there is one that puts Arkansas at the top, far ahead of even No. 2. The state’s flagship university, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, spends more on athletics as a proportion of its total instructional expenditures than any other school in America.

The U. S. Department of Education prepared the data from university budgets. The university’s spending on the Razorbacks equaled 56.5 percent of the total instructional budget of the university. You had to drop down to 50.2 percent for second place, the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama.

The Southeastern Con-ference predictably produced five of the top 10 schools: Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn at No. 7, Ole Miss at No. 8 and Louisiana State University at No. 9. Another SEC school, Vanderbilt University, which defeated Ole Miss and Auburn in football this year and regularly beats all five of them in basketball, ranked last in the nation. Its athletic budget was only 6.4 percent of instructional spending.

On the same day that a Northwest Arkansas blog re-ported the disparities in athletic spending, the chancellor of the Fayetteville campus announced that it was going to have to raise tuition significantly next fall to pay for academic programs.

Yes, yes, we know that there is little organic relationship between the cost of the athletic empire on the mountain and instructional spending. The athletic costs are borne mostly but not altogether by the Razorback Foundation and Razorback philanthropy, while the taxpayers and students pay the instructional costs. But are the university’s values — our values as a state — not seriously out of line?

Our bliss in Razorback success might be worth the cost of ignorance, but what we have is the costliest mediocrity in America, in athletics as well as academics.

—Ernie Dumas