Budget proposal spurs on UC athletics debate

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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on intercollegiate athletics in the state budget.

In just one line situated in the Democrats’ 2011-12 budget proposal, lawmakers have once again reignited the controversy surrounding funding for intercollegiate athletics.

Among a seemingly long list of cuts to the various areas of state funding — which includes an already approved $500 million cut to the UC and a $500 million cut to the CSU — a single line was added to the Democrats’ proposed budget regarding state funding to intercollegiate athletics: it is forbidden.

But according to Patrick Lenz, the vice president of budget and capital resources for the UC Office of the President, state funds have never been put toward intercollegiate athletics, despite the fact that some have claimed that campuses — in particular UC Berkeley and UCLA — have used “discretionary state funds” to help support fledgling athletics programs that were hit hard by increasing department deficits resulting from low revenues and high expenditures.

“There is this presumption that the UC relies on state funds to support … intercollegiate athletics,” Lenz said. “This is truly a non-issue in my opinion, and I am not clear why this language had to be placed into the budget. I understand why they would place it in if someone had identified or if we had identified an abuse or if the state auditor had found an abuse. But there was no indication we violated anything.”

Lawmakers’ decision to add such language to the proposed state budget continues to bring the debate over funding for intercollegiate athletics to the forefront of a long-standing controversy between the UC, its campuses and its campus affiliates.

In May 1981, a UC policy called BUS-72 was passed that stated that auxiliary enterprises “are those non-instructional services provided to individuals, primarily students, in return for specific user charges. These services include student housing, intercollegiate athletics, food services, and parking. Auxiliary Enterprises are self-supporting and are not subsidized by the state.” At the time, this included, among other programs, UC Berkeley’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

But roughly a year and a half ago, the issue of whether the department was an auxiliary and whether campus moneys were flowing to campus athletic teams was brought forth by Brian Barsky, UC Berkeley professor of computer science.

Concerned there was a loophole in how funds from the campus were being used to support intercollegiate athletics, Barsky decided to author a resolution with seven other campus colleagues that was passed by the campus division of the Academic Senate on Nov. 5, 2009, that recommended, among other suggestions, “the Chancellor put Intercollegiate Athletics on its intended self-supporting basis,” recommending that “all funding of Intercollegiate Athletics from campus subsidies and the use of student registration fees cease immediately.”

Six months ago, Barsky, who had been looking over changes to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2011-12 state budget that was presented in January, noticed a difference in finances that he thought could possibly show that taxpayers’ money could be put toward UC funding in the future for financially struggling athletics teams — including some teams at UC Berkeley — at the expense of academics.

Within the past year, two final reports released from two separate campus groups — the Chancellor’s Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics and the Academic Senate Task Force on Intercollegiate Athletics — both detailed that the department was in serious financial strife and that measures needed to be taken to remedy the department’s reliance on campus support, which totaled about $13.7 million during the 2008-09 fiscal year.

On Dec. 16, 2010, UCOP rescinded the original BUS-72 policy and replaced it with a new BUS-72 policy, which redefined auxiliary enterprises and removed the term “intercollegiate athletics” from the list of auxiliary groups.

Also, intercollegiate athletics for certain campuses  — such as UC Berkeley and UCLA — were dubbed “hybrid auxiliaries” because they possessed both auxiliary enterprise and student services characteristics, according to Lenz.

“There was no announcement and no discussion with anyone when this policy was rescinded,” Barsky said in regard to the change. “There were no details on who did this and why.”

With clarification on the definition of the campus’s athletics department still unclear to Barsky and others, including members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, union members set out to speak with and to lobby state legislators to add to Brown’s budget that no matter what intercollegiate athletics was, state funds could not be used to support any athletics programs.

“They’re not following rules about how the money you have is supposed to be distributed while at the same time they tell us there is no money,” said Lakesha Harrison, president of AFSCME Local 3299. “It’s about making sure there’s accountability in the way the UC uses its funding. None of us agree that there should be funding cuts to the UC, but we do need to make sure what money there is is being spent properly.”

Aaida Samad of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.

Katie Nelson is an assistant news editor.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Barsky believed there were departments other than intercollegiate athletics that had moneys wrongly put towards their units.

A previous version of this article may have implied that Barsky was concerned that Brown’s proposed budget could affect money that had already been put towards funding athletics. He was concerned that the proposed budget could possibly enable the money to be put toward such funding in the future.

A previous version of this article may have implied that Barsky was concerned about only campus discretionary funds being allocated to Intercollegiate Athletics, when in fact he was concerned about how all campus funds were being allocated to the department.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article originally stated that Barsky began looking into whether state moneys were being used to possibly fund intercollegiate athletics a year and a half ago. In fact, Barsky began looking into whether campus moneys were being used to help fund the department at that time.

A previous version of this article also stated that Barsky was concerned with whether state money could be given to campus departments such as intercollegiate athletics after noticing a change in the 2009-10 governor’s budget. In fact, he noticed the change while looking at Brown’s 2011-12 proposed budget that was presented in January.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly quoted the Nov. 5, 2009 resolution as recommending that there be an end to “all funding of Intercollegiate Athletics from campus subsidies immediately.” In fact, the resolution recommends that “All funding of Intercollegiate Athletics from campus subsidies and the use of student registration fees cease immediately.”