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The Transparency Question: Should Public Funds Be Used to Fund College Stadiums?

In a recent article from 247 Sports' Kansas State affiliate, writer Tim Fitzgerald discussed the implications of renovating David Booth Memorial Stadium, the University of Kansas's football complex. Fitzgerald stated that Kansas Athletics is using public funds without the permission and guidance of the "neighborhood, the students, and the faculty surrounding the university" and that when Kansas State Athletics performs renovations, public funds are not used, or at least they have not been in several years (per Tim Fitzgerald's Twitter) Kansas Athletics, according to Fitzgerald, is not being transparent with this use of public funds, which is why they shouldn't get it. They should raise the funding via private donations and endowment work, like Kansas State. The university should use the state funding to fund academic and facility endeavors, not athletics.

However, let's look at some numbers. According to an Axios study from 2020, $6.5 billion of the NCAA's total revenue has been garnered via institutional and public funds ( In fact, 35% of athletic department revenue is direct institutional or government support, the largest revenue source out of all the potential revenue sources. Schools are also not required to disclose how much of their tuition revenue goes to athletics, which has led to much outcry from student bodies. Where is the outcry from Fitzgerald here? If we're going to address issues regarding transparency, why not start there exactly, considering state funding AND institutional sources are the largest revenue streams? I think Fitzgerald needs to realize that Kansas State has, in fact, more than likely used institutional and state funding to fund athletics projects, they probably just found a workaround to tell journalists, students, faculty, and donors. According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in a 2013 study done by USA Today, just 23 of 228 athletics programs at the NCAA Division 1 level generated enough money on their own to cover their expenses in 2012. What does this mean, you might ask? It means most NCAA Division 1 schools take state subsidies. ( Now, this article IS from 10 years ago, but what makes anyone think anything has changed given the ever-rising costs of tuition and athletic department endeavors?

My point being is this: College athletics programs have long been an institution that drains university bank accounts, to the point of where state subsidies and large institutional allocations are not only taken out, but they're also needed desperately to survive and develop. I agree with Fitzgerald on this: College athletics programs do need to be more transparent on where their funding comes from, especially in the age where it's not as taboo to say given the NCAA's relaxations of student-athlete compensation and other long since controversial financial topics regarding college athletics. Kansas is certainly not the first program to ask for state funding in their athletic endeavors, and they won't be the last, but being transparent about it would help ease tensions between students, faculty, the community at large, and the university. Trying to get a "gotcha" moment on KU regarding an issue that has long since been a staple of college athletics revenues is silly, and frankly if any pundits/universities want to get a one up on anyone, they should take a look in the mirror. It's the way of the times, and if you want to make a difference you need to come after the institution of college athletics at large, because everyone does it. Is it right that colleges take these amounts and put it toward revenue? That's up to the eye of the beholder I believe, but transparency is important, and I believe that aspect Tim Fitzgerald and the rest of those crying foul regarding KU's recent renovation plans are right on. The rest I think is shaky ground to stand on given the state of college athletics as we know it.

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