Like Athletic Director Lynn Hickey said, the $25 million UTSA Athletics requested from the City of San Antonio to fund Phase II of the Park West complex is not out-of-the-question. It pales in comparison to the $169 million in tax-exempt bonds issued to construct the AT&T Center, for example.

But the initiative provides an opportunity to once again take a look at big money in collegiate sports and question the benefits they provide.

University athletic programs are funded through donations, ticket sales, rights fees, sponsorships and television contracts. When these revenues aren’t enough to cover expenditures, the losses are mitigated by “allocated revenue,” typically in the form of university support, student fees or government subsidies.

In the past six years, UTSA Athletics has required an annual average of $1.8 million from university funds and $11 million from student fees–both of which are recorded as revenue–just to balance its budget.

As the fact that fewer than a dozen collegiate athletic programs in the U.S. consistently generate enough revenue to cover their own expenses has become common knowledge, universities have stopped using potential revenue as justification for increasing athletic investment.

Likewise, administrators now point to UTSA’s national profile and tie it to the quest to achieve Tier-One status.

The administration’s insistence upon linking our athletic programs’ growth directly to its Tier-One aspirations is misleading, as there is seemingly no evidence to support the idea that more investment in athletics will have any effect on academic research funding—the only actual determinant of Tier-One status.

Private donations based on athletic success are generally donated directly to the athletic programs and never factored into the academic budget. An increase in donations to athletics could result in less university or student money being allocated to athletics, but is it enough to warrant the increase in resources allocated?

After studying 29 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision programs, University of Arkansas doctoral student Gi-Yong Koo and Associate Professor Stephen Dittmoreconcluded that increases in athletic donations actually had a negative impact on academic funding. Their findings were published in the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics.

“For every $1 increase in athletic giving,” read an Inside Higher Ed article about the study, “the current operating dollars restricted to academic purposes decreased by $1.40.”

A 2013 study, “The Dynamic Advertising Effect of Collegiate Athletics” by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Doug J. Chung, concluded that improvement in athletic performance can increase the amount of applications a university receives the following year by almost 20 percent. However, it also concluded that the school’s athletic notoriety matters less to applicants as their test scores increase.

UTSA Football’s 10 most-attended games took place before the 2015 season—a low point for the program—and half of those games were in 2011, its inaugural year.

Even if there was reason to believe that the heightened profile would benefit our academic success and Tier-One mission, there doesn’t appear to be much progress made toward garnering lasting attention within San Antonio, much less across the country.

There’s no shame in UTSA Athletics wanting better facilities and improved resources, and they may be necessary to compete at a higher level. But citing only internal research as evidence to frame the expansion as beneficial to all students, and San Antonio at large, is either disingenuous or willfully obtuse.

Related Stories

More from Editorial staff

Editorial staff

Students will leave their university behind during spring break, but they will still have an opportunity to represent the ‘Runners…

More In Opinion

Donald Escamilla Jr. Contributing Writer

We are now in the final weeks of the Fall 2019 semester, and tensions are high for a lot of…