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Modifying tradition: The inevitable future of Miami football

The Rieger Report

By JM Rieger
On February 14, 2013

Miami University athletics, or rather its football program, has become unsustainable.

The team can no longer compete at the Division I level, not because of its players or coaches, but because of the system. The Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the Bowl Championship Series reward big spenders, and Miami cannot keep up.

Despite efforts to increase funding and revenue for Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA), the university has failed. ICA's expenditures have increased while more than 50 percent of the student General Fee has funded more than 60 percent of Miami's athletic program over the last five years.

According to USA Today, student funding for athletic departments jumped 18 percent over four years to more than $795 million in 2009 to support 222 Division I public institutions. Last year Miami students each paid more than $900 to fund athletics, which operated at a loss of more than $15 million before student fees.

Miami spent more on football than the next three costliest sports combined last year; of the Athletic Department's $23.5 million budget, nearly 23 percent went to the football program, which has lost an average of more than $3.6 million over the past three years.

The program's revenue has consistently remained under $2 million aside from 2010, when the team won its first Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship since 2003 and made its first bowl appearance since 2004. Football revenue jumped 135 percent that year before falling again the following season.

Increased spending in the FBS is making successful seasons even more difficult for mid-major schools. And without success on the field, revenue is often lacking.

The top quartile of FBS schools are spending more than $130 million per year and the expenditure gap between the top and bottom FBS quartiles has grown by more than $25 million over the past eight years, according to the NCAA. On top of this, the median FBS university spent nearly $37 million more than the median Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) institution.

While it is unclear if Miami will save money in the short term by switching to the FCS, the university will save boatloads in the long run based on current athletic spending trends. Plus, athletic cuts set to begin next year mean the university is unlikely to increase funding dramatically to keep pace with the national trend.

Miami cannot win.

However, even more absurd is what the university spends trying to compete in the FBS. This year Miami is projected to spend more than $43,000 per athlete compared to $15,000 per student. Yet this pales in comparison to the nearly $92,000 spent per athlete in 2010 by FBS schools, significantly more than the $13,000 spent per student, according to the Delta Cost Project.

Furthermore, it is debatable at best if students care about or benefit from a Division I football program, which filled only 63 percent of its stadium on average last year.

Miami is the winningest football program in MAC history, but "The Cradle of Coaches" must make the switch to the FCS; it cannot afford not to.

Reduced state funding and cuts recommended by the Strategic Priorities Task Force have forced the university to increase efficiency.

The question though, is whether Miami athletics will be held to the same standard.

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