Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Faculty Senate discusses football’s move to MAC, passes motion

By William Perkins

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Nickolas Massar/Collegian

Some said it’s a move that will deplete more funds from the University’s already thin budget. Others said it’s a measure that helps to increase the school’s stature. And several questioned the process by which the decision to make the move was made.

The University of Massachusetts’ football program’s jump from the Football Championship Subdivision in the Colonial Athletic Association to the Football Bowl Subdivision in the Mid-American Conference was a topic of debate, discussion and deliberation yesterday at a meeting of the school’s Faculty Senate. And, after talks at the gathering ceased, members of the legislative body voted in a 31-10 decision to support a motion that calls on the University to not make a planned $30 million in improvements to the program’s main on-campus facility – McGuirk Alumni Stadium – until a significant portion of funding can be privately raised.

The vote occurred during a meeting in which over 100 anxious students protested recent, and then unconfirmed, changes in the UMass Residential Life program, lining the long lecture hall walls of Herter 227 with signs of demonstration. And it followed a panel discussion on the program’s move by three senators – Max Page, Michael Sugerman and Richard Bogartz – and  Student Government Association President Yevin Roh and student trustee Tina Kennedy.

The move, some on the panel said, could adversely affect the school’s budget and require a spate of more University funding.

“Football will corrupt our institution and it has already started,” said Page – a professor of art, architecture and art history – who added that the money allocated for improvements of McGuirk Alumni Stadium were not mentioned when the news of the program’s jump was first released. “Professional college athletics is a hungry beast and it keeps growing and growing.”

The cost of the move will increase the program’s spending budget, but, according to budget projections drawn up by Athletic Director John McCutcheon, it could generate a spike in revenue in the football budget through ticket sales, sponsorships and contributions, which could decrease University funding for the program. But many on the Faculty Senate have questioned whether such revenue will be produced.

And Sugerman, a lecturer of anthropology, also noted that while the football program’s budget will see a spike, some programs such as University Health Services have been cut back. This includes UHS’ recent cuts in hours and closure of its pharmacy.

 

“It seems a bit stingy to limit the hours [students] can visit them,” said Sugerman.

Bogartz, a professor of psychology, said that the collegiate version of the sport was the “exploitation of student gladiators.” He went on to speak about how many prestigious schools, such as the California Institute of Technology and Boston University, don’t have football programs.

The move, however, has not faced any concerns from students, according to Kennedy.

She said that it’s her understanding that many students are excited for the move – so long as “there is not an increase in student fees.”

There are other issues on-campus that students are concerned with, said Kennedy. They include the potential building of a new student union, a tobacco ban which is supposed to go into effect and the latest residential issues.

Also speaking from a student perspective was Roh, who said it his job to listen to students and gather their input.

“Democracy is a long process … and we listen to students,” said Roh.

And Roh also noted that the move did initially get the go-ahead from the University’s Athletic Council – which is composed of both students and staff members. The council unanimously passed a motion on the measure on Dec. 10, 2010.

One of the advocates for the program since its inception, Chancellor Robert Holub, also spoke on the matter at the meeting. Holub detailed the timeline of the events of the move for the members of the Senate, while also explaining how he thinks the move to the FBS could help create unity for the campus.

“We looked at what it would mean to move to FBS football and considered it carefully,” said Holub.

“We see this as consistent with our role as a flagship campus. We also see this with our goal to join the upper echelon of universities,” added Holub.

As Holub discussed the economic aspects of the move, he also spoke of the NCAA’s Title IX, which gives both men’s and women’s sports equal scholarship funds. Because the amount of scholarships offered for FBS football is higher, women’s teams at the University will receive an increase in scholarship funds, he said.

And according to Holub, less than 1 percent of the campus’ overall budget is related to football and will remain as such after the move to the MAC. Only 4 percent of the overall current capital improvement budget will be related, he said, to the renovations at the stadium – which include a new building and a new press box, among other things.

Improvements to the stadium will be done while the Minutemen compete at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro – the home to the New England Patriots, which is owned by Robert Kraft.

Holub also outlined, from his perspective, the process and development of the move to the MAC. After the move was approved by the Athletic Council, he noted that the UMass president and the school’s Board of Trustees were kept abreast on negotiations throughout the process. And, he said, that the move had been discussed at an open meeting of the trustees in February 2011.

On March 15, he said, he signed the FBS contract and, on April 19, he signed the contract with the Kraft family.

“The University is many things for many people,” said Holub.

“We have to look at this as a University. We have to try to look at our whole constituency and make the best decision we can,” added Holub.

But Secretary of the Faculty Senate Ernie May noted that the Athletic Council and the Faculty Senate’s Rules Committee saw the pro forma budgetary projection, which didn’t include new coaches’ salaries or new scholarships.

“What we passively approved was something that was very incomplete,” said May.

And, May said, the motion that members of the Senate ultimately passed yesterday was not a referendum on whether football is good or not for the school, but was rather a reflection of how the program – and the improvements to McGuirk Alumni Stadium – should be funded.

“The motion is not to say that football is bad, it’s just to say that the supporters of football should pay for it,” said May, who suggested that private donors should foot the costs for it.

The passed resolution states that UMass shouldn’t make a commitment to renovations nor to the expansion of McGuirk Alumni Stadium until fundraising has reached 80 percent of the estimated $30 million cost. The resolution, though, is advisory measure – as the Faculty Senate does not have the power to override the decision.

The move for the football team will begin this fall, as the Minutemen will begin their first season in the MAC against Indiana on Sept. 9, 2012.

Herb Scribner can be reached at [email protected] William Perkins can be reached at [email protected]

8 Comments

8 Responses to “Faculty Senate discusses football’s move to MAC, passes motion”

  1. 07 alumnus on December 2nd, 2011 8:36 am

    Show me faculty at any university with division one athletics besides Duke and Stanford perhaps that support their universities’ athletics programs.

  2. Axe on December 2nd, 2011 10:02 am

    They do support athletics. They just want the money for it to be coming from the right places and out of the right pockets. A university should be about academics, and academic departments should not face cuts or setbacks because that money is going to a niche like football.

  3. Reasonable Adult on December 3rd, 2011 2:57 am

    Sounds like a pissing match between professors in low budget departments complaining that they have been overlooked. The football program as a CAA institution was losing money every year, the move to the MAC brings a share of the MAC’s TV deal as well as annual BCS allocations. To be seen as an elite school, sometimes you need to open the wallet to attract students.

  4. Thinking Adult in Amherst on December 4th, 2011 2:55 pm

    Have any of the people in favor of this been reading the papers lately? It will take at least a generation to drag Penn State’s name out of the mud after the coverup that Spanier, Paterno et alia perpetuated in the name of big college sports. And now there’s another mess at Syracuse.
    Clearly those programs opened a lot more than just wallets. What does Penn State have to show for all those victories? A long legacy of corruption, lawsuits, sexual abuse.

    The UMass Faculty acted in the interest of the institution and not “low budget departments,” as “Reasonable” alleges. What is the priority for the University? The education of Massachusetts’ young people as leaders. Putting their academic excellence first is the only move with integrity in a ***university***. Here’s the definition:

    noun ( pl. -ties)
    an educational institution designed for instruction, examination, or both, of students in many branches of advanced learning, conferring degrees in various faculties, and often embodying colleges and similar institutions : [in names ] Oxford University | the University of California | [as adj. ] the university buildings | a university professor.
    • the members of this collectively.
    • the grounds and buildings of such an institution.

    It is not a corporation. Not a money making making machine.
    The evidence that big college sports contributes to either is rather thin right now. Didn’t you ever hear that money is the root of all evil?

  5. Jim on December 5th, 2011 4:20 am

    Actually, It’s the “love” of money that is the root of all evil. By the university moving up it will increase it’s national exposure and it’s revenue source to fund “low budget departments”. This isn’t just about making money. This is also about improving the status of the university as a whole. You want to use Duke or Stanford or even Harvard as examples? First, none of them are public universities. Secondly, look at their endowments and their alumni support. UMass has nothing compared to this. Now look at public universities which are FBS schools and you can see that the overall potential for alumni support increases and in some cases, so does admissions. This isn’t just about the money.

  6. Joe on December 5th, 2011 7:00 am

    Look at a school like the University of Michigan. You know why they have top programs in practically every subject? It’s because they have top flight sports programs everywhere you look. The football program has the ability to put one million dollars away in the bank net from each game. That means after they pay all the staff that work the games they still have one million dollars left over. At a school like that the football program makes a profit and what do schools do with the profit? they use it to help pay for other parts of the school that don’t normally bring in money. They also get a whole boatload of money in donations from all the former NFL players that came from their. Those also free up more of the budget for non-football things as the donations can help pay for the program.
    This isn’t going to be an overnight process, their will be years where we don’t make money at all likely. But simply being a FBS team as opposed to an FCS team makes our take from non-conference games a minimum of one million dollars. The faculty may mention how BU and the California Institute of Technology have no football team. Well Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, UPenn, Standford, Duke, Michigan, Texas-Austin, UCLA, UC Berkley. Those all have programs. While the Ivy’s don’t offer scholarships for those sports, they still have them. And the other schools with the exception of Duke, they all have top flight programs in which the program make insane amounts of money for the school allowing them to spend the actual budget on other things.

  7. Michael on December 12th, 2011 1:47 pm

    This change will raise the cost of UMass football by an estimated $2.5 million per year, not counting its capital development costs. If we expect to cover this cost by ticket sales, we are acting in ignorance of the projected continuation of the current recession. If we expect this cost will be covered by corporate sponsors, then we are increasing an already endemic corporate presence on our public university campus. Finally, if schools like U Michigan attract new applicants through sports programs, it is because they attract out-of-state students, at the expense of in-state enrollment. UMass has a commitment not only to developing its own name but to serve the state of Massachusetts with stable jobs and an educated citizenship. Increasing the budget to competitive football is a step away from this important goal.

  8. Raye Breitling on February 25th, 2012 3:10 pm

    Nice… but Jeff Teague aint bad either. He’s stepping up in these playoffs. Hawks in 7!

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