The Big-Boy Hating Letter from Boise State’s President is Incredibly Hypocritical
On Thursday, Boise States president Bob Kustra released a scathing letter ridiculing the NCAA and lambasting the direction of collegiate athletics. The op-ed, which was submitted to various media outlets and can be found in its entirety courtesy of the Idaho Statesman, is hardly groundbreaking. In fact, it borders on trite.
All he hot-button issues that define the rhetoric surrounding college sports are present.
- The way things used to be: check.
- Scholarships should be enough: check.
- Amateurism is dying: check.
- Unfair competition: check.
But, hidden within the all too familiar verbiage and general shots fired at the “system” are several cleverly-disguised inconsistencies.
“Last week,” Kustra begins “I left the confines of Division 1 athletics and delivered a commencement address at a Division 3 college where student-athletes compete without scholarship in true amateur fashion.”
While his editorial opinion is evident from the onset, his assertion that Division 1 athletes are not truly amateurs provides an immediate framework for negating several of his own arguments.
Kustra asserts that new NCAA reforms “move it closer to professional sports.” But, isn’t amateurism already confined to the Division 3 level? If Division 1 athletes are no longer amateurs, what are they? Well, the must be professionals. So how are professionals moving closer to being more professional?
Paragraphs later, Kustra condemns universities for embracing commercialism. As Kevin Trahan of SBNation.com has already pointed out, Kustra is the president of a university that just sold its stadium naming rights for $12.5 million. But the trend toward commercialism must be stopped!
Kustra points out that schools like Alabama, Illinois, Nebraska and Missouri (admittedly, an odd sample) all boast sizeable athletic department budgets in contrast to Boise State’s most recent budget of $37 million (a dated figure, but he uses it).
How embarrassing to spend all that money and then have someone with half the budget or less beat you on Saturday afternoon or, more problematical, beat you in the academic progress department!
Kustra must not have been speaking for his university in this instance—at least not in the past year.
Boise State won eight football games in 2013. According to the most recent data (calendar year 2012) from USA Today, the programs which lost to Boise State on the gridiron last season boasted the following athletic budgets:
|Team||Annual Expenses||National Rank of Expenses|
|Tennessee- Martin||$10.2 Million||191|
|Air Force||$43.2 Million||55|
|Southern Mississippi||$21.9 Million||105|
|Utah State||$21.6 Million||108|
|Colorado State||$30.2 Million||70|
|New Mexico||$44.3 Million||58|
In 2012, Boise State’s athletic department budget was just shy of $43.2 million according to the same USA Today data. Only Air Force boasted a larger athletic department budget than Boise State and still suffered a football loss to the Broncos in 2013. How embarrassing, indeed.
Kustra, it would appear, has a tendency to live in the past. Given his harkening to the Broncos’ Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma following the 2006 season and his reference to a 1930s rowing team (because that team should be foundational in shaping college sports today), it’s not all that surprising that he wants to go back to the good old days.
What is surprising, however, is his call for fiscal accountability. After calling larger athletic departments “wasteful models of athletic spending that cannot be justified,” Kustra calls for the NCAA to “take a stand for fiscal responsibility,” among other things.
In Kustra’s plea for sound budgeting for all, there are two blatant inconsistencies.
First and foremost, Boise State has escalated its athletic budget at a rate that is just alarming as that of the “big boys.” Kustra insists that Boise State’s entire football budget was less than the salary of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops in 2006. Further, Boise State’s athletic department budget was $18 million that year according to George Schroeder of Sports Illustrated. Now, USA Today lists that budget at over $43 million. Over a six year period, the Broncos more than doubled their budget.
Secondly, Kustra’s labeling of big-spending athletic departments as fiscally irresponsible is largely erroneous. Each of the nation’s 10 highest-spending institutions generated a financial return on investment (expenses) that was higher than that of Boise State in 2012.
|School||Revenue||Expenses||Profit||Return on Expense|
He says this kind of spending “can’t be justified,” and yet the dollar return numbers seem to do a damn good job of justification.
Furthermore, on a theoretical basis, how is allowing teams and conferences the opportunity to determine their own budgets and their own strategies for compensating (or not compensating) players fiscally irresponsible by its very nature? Something tells me the higher-ups at the University of Texas enjoy a big athletic department, (in part) because they enjoy the $25 million profit it generates. Something tells me, they’re not going to take a prolonged hit on the bottom line just to compensate athletes.
Admittedly, there are plenty of cases to be made against paying collegiate athletes. But these arguments shouldn’t be made through a lens so clouded with presuppositions that miscolors collegiate athletes and labels them as professionals for having scholarships. Furthermore, these decisions shouldn’t be strictly financial.
Kustra is quick to point out problems—some legitimate, some not—in the direction the NCAA is heading, but he’s short on solutions. He lauds smaller universities for seeing value in equity and fairness, and he clearly prefers unity under one large governmental body over freedom of budgeting and policy-making for each individual university. And that’s ultimately to his detriment.
Kustra fails to recognize that the strife which so aptly defines and destructively dilutes college athletics today is not present because of big schools or small schools. It’s not a byproduct of too much athletic spending or too little profit. It’s not—at its root—even a debate over the value of scholarships or amateurism.
Rather, today’s politically-driven tumult in college sports is the result of a loosely affiliated group of ego-driven university presidents (like Kustra himself) bound poorly and incompetently by a broken structure (the NCAA). Universities are run by men who want to make big and loud—but ultimately meaningless—proclamations. Meanwhile the NCAA is content to govern only selectively and rarely judiciously.
Why should that status quo be maintained?
That’s all I got/