Another bump on the Cal athletics road

Last fall, Berkeley announced that it would cut five teams to reduce the annual subsidy the campus gives to intercollegiate athletics from around $11 14m [corr. 12/II] to $5m.  Most places with six-figure administrators do some analysis before making multi-million dollar decisions, especially analysis of the relevant laws, but it appears that didn’t happen here: the IA folks are surprised (though the AD denies this) that cutting women’s teams has Title IX consequences – or maybe they just chose not to share that tidbit with the public and the fans at the time. The problem is that the M/F sex ratio of the student body is way below the ratio of scholarship athletes, and cutting any women’s sports brings the campus under the equal-ratio rule where it had been governed by a different, less stringent, standard before.

Backpedaling all winter has been vigorous, mainly in the form of shaking the booster tree for gifts. Originally the administration set the bar for restoring the teams to varsity status at $80m, then $25.  Now it’s decided that about $12m is enough to keep rugby, women’s gymnastics, and women’s lacrosse in business, but baseball and men’s gymnastics are gone.  The income from $12m is only about $500,000 a year, and the original team cut was supposed to be a big part of moving a $14m annual loss to $5m, so it appears that the Title IX need to keep the two women’s teams mostly derailed the hope to save any serious money.  For example, men in 2008 not counting basketball and football lost about $7m, and baseball and gymnastics engaged about a third of them, so the savings from  the revised cut is only about $2m.  Next year football will be in a baseball park that only seats about 45,000 people, and this year the money teams are both having the kind of season that doesn’t tend to make it rain money or sell seats (football  3-6 , men’s basketball 5-6 so far in the PAC10), so redirecting a meaningful amount of athletics subsidies back to the educational mission is looking further and further away, and the management of the Intercollegiate Athletics enterprise continues to mystify.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

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