Who foots the bill for public universities' athletic programs?

Who foots the bill for public universities' athletic programs?

CHAMPAIGN — The athletic program at the University of Illinois benefits from indirect state subsidies of more than $8 million a year for employee pensions and benefits, on top of several million dollars from student fees — part of which ultimately comes from state grants for low-income students, a new report says.

Those numbers, UI faculty researcher Jay Rosenstein said, challenge the common assertion that multimillion-dollar coaching packages and other costs are covered by athletic department income, not taxpayer or university money.

Rosenstein, a documentary filmmaker and professor of media and cinema studies, has published his findings in a four-part series entitled "The Multimillion-Dollar Head Fake" at theheadfake.org and the Huffington Post. He plans a documentary on how public universities finance college sports, primarily football and basketball.

"I think the system by which big-time sports is being financed by universities is completely broken. It's basically completely backwards," said Rosenstein, who is also a long-time Chief Illiniwek opponent. "In order for public universities to survive, that relationship is going to have to change or be repaired."

UI athletic officials dispute his conclusions, say the numbers are incomplete and point out that the athletic department pays the campus almost $10 million a year for tuition waivers, utilities and other services. They also say student fees make up a small part of the athletic department's revenue overall, compared to most Division I schools.

"I'm proud of the revenue model that we have for athletics," UI athletic director Josh Whitman said. "I understand that some people want to take issue with the funding of intercollegiate athletics. That holds more weight for schools funded much differently from ours."


Among Rosenstein's findings:

— The state covers nearly $6 million a year in health insurance and other benefits for athletic employees, as it does for most UI workers.

— The State Universities Retirement System is paying out about $2.6 million annually for the pensions of 18 retired UI coaches and athletic staff, a number likely to rise because of 3 percent annual cost-of-living increases. While some of that is covered by the employees' own pension contributions, payouts eventually exceed those amounts and taxpayers end up footing the bill.

— Former Athletic Director Ron Guenther, who retired in 2011, earns a pension of $473,094 a year, fourth highest of all state university retirees. His annual contributions to the retirement system, $614,247, were used up by 2015, meaning the state now covers that cost.

(The DIA kicked in $97,400 for Guenther's pension in 2012, under a state law requiring employers to cover any share related to a pay increase more than 6 percent above the previous year. His salary jumped $75,000 in 2008, from $525,00 to $600,000.)

— While students pay no athletic fee per se, they shell out $68 a year through the campus general fee to pay off bonds used to finance two Memorial Stadium projects, one in the late 1990s and a $121 million renovation in 2006-08. Another $50 of the general fee goes toward the recent $170 million revamp of the State Farm Center, which is shared by athletics and student affairs. Students also pay $84.50 annually through the service fee to cover operating costs at the State Farm Center, though that money stays with the center's budget, officials said.

— Because of those fees, a share of the $30 million the campus gets each year in state Monetary Award Program grants, to cover tuition and fees for students in need, technically goes to athletics. Rosenstein calculated that number at $282,000, though Whitman disputes his math.

Whitman counters that athletic department staff members are state employees just like any other UI worker. Other campus units that receive generous outside income, such as the College of Engineering, don't pay for their employee benefits or pensions; neither do other auxiliary units such as the Krannert Center, he said.

Besides paying for utilities, IT support and other services, athletics pays the campus for the 258.5 scholarships awarded to roughly 350 student athletes (including out-of-state or international tuition rates if applicable) — a total of $7.6 million in 2016 for tuition/fees and $374,000 for room and board. It paid another $4.2 million to cover food and housing for scholarship athletes who lived off campus. The combined total is closer to $12.5 million this year, Whitman said.

Of course, the money isn't a gift to campus; it goes toward the expense of teaching, housing and feeding those athletes.

The campus used to provide up to $1 million in tuition waivers, dating back to the 1970s when eight women's varsity sports were added with scholarships to comply with Title IX. But that subsidy was phased out, with the final $260,000 payment last year, according to the athletic department.

Pension benefits

Regarding pensions, Rosenstein said that even if athletic income covers big salaries and raises, such as Guenther's in 2008, that ends up costing taxpayers later because it pads their pension. Employee pensions are based on years of employment, age at retirement, and the average of their highest four consecutive years of salaries.

That cost has been growing as the UI athletic program, like many of its peers, added staff in recent years, fueled by huge increases in TV revenue from the Big Ten Network, Rosenstein said. The athletic department's overall revenue has more than doubled since the network's creation in 2006, when it totaled about $44 million.

This year, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics expects to receive $49.9 million from its Big Ten TV contract — nearly half of its $99.7 million budget.

Over the last 20 years, the number of employees grew from 88 in 1997 to 143 in 2007 to 196 in 2017, according to UI data — a 123 percent increase, Rosenstein said.

"New hires add to the total benefit costs that Illinois taxpayers have to pay," he wrote.

Whitman said the $2.6 million that went to athletic pensions last year is a fraction of the $17 billion paid out statewide, the $2.3 billion that went to all retired public university employees, or the $367 million paid to retirees from the Urbana campus.

There are more than 17,000 state pensions that exceed $100,000 annually, he noted, and of the top 500 only three — Guenther, Lou Henson and his former assistant, Jimmy Collins — are from UI athletics.

The state has also moved to limit big pensions in recent years, capping the amount that could be applied toward retirement at $270,000 in 1996. For employees hired since 2011 — including Lovie Smith, for example — the cap is significantly lower: $106,800.

If public university athletic programs across the state were forced to pick up the benefit costs for their employees, Whitman said, some would likely have to close.

UI President Tim Killeen has acknowledged that the UI may have to take on some of that cost, given the state's huge pension shortfall.

"If that happens, I'm sure we'll be a part of that," Whitman said.

Student fees: 'Immoral'?

Rosenstein took particular aim at the student fee money allocated to athletics, which he said is "hidden" inside other fees and likely goes unnoticed by many students.

Trustees approved the $68 addition to the general fee in 1997 — over strong student objections — to help fund athletic facilities and erase a $1.4 million athletic budget deficit. The income, now more than $3 million a year, was later pledged to the 2006-08 Memorial Stadium renovation, with little public debate.

Students had asked back in 1997 for a sunset provision, so the fee could be reduced or eliminated if the athletic department's fortunes improved. A trustee at the time promised the board would consider that if the department had a surplus for five years. Rosenstein pointed out that the department had a surplus for nine years, from 2005 to 2013.Students did approve the $50 annual fee for the State Farm Center renovation in a 2013 campus referendum. It generates about $2 million annually.

Applying MAP grant funding to those fees, Rosenstein argues, means the state is indirectly funding the luxury suites and premium seating provided by the renovations of the stadium and basketball arena.

"In general students are to a certain degree being exploited, to help pay for this monstrously wealthy enterprise, and I think it's not just offensive but it's immoral," he said.

Athletics officials point out that students benefited from those projects, too, in terms of ticket discounts, better seating and the like. Student tickets at Illinois ($60 for a season pass) are the cheapest in the Big Ten, other than Northwestern, Whitman said.

Students are paying 16 percent of the cost of the 2006 stadium renovation, while income from premium seating is funding 50 percent, athletics officials noted.

Whitman said revenue from any scholarship is applied toward fees — not just athletic fees but those for the Krannert Center, the Illini Union, study abroad programs and Campus Recreation.

"The whole fee structure represents things that the university has decided have value to the student experience," he said, even if a particular student may not use all those services.

While athletics shares the State Farm Center 50-50 with student affairs, he noted, it pays about 80 percent of the costs. "It's probably a fairer statement to say that we've subsidized the student portion of that building."

Whitman said the UI's athletic-related fees are "far and away" the lowest in the state. State and national reports show other public universities — including Maryland and Rutgers in the Big Ten — use student fees or campus subsidies to cover 25 percent or more of athletic expenses.

Whitman said the fees aren't a secret, and he's tried to be open about the department's finances in presentations to the campus senate. He said he's grateful for student support and believes the fees should remain "nominal."

Whitman and Rosenstein differ on the benefits athletics brings to the larger university, each citing research to support his view.

"I think people think that de-emphasizing athletics could be this silver bullet," Whitman said. "If somebody decided it would be better for the University of Illinois to have a Division III athletic program, the university would pay more money and would get less benefit. I know that, because I've been the AD at two Division III schools."

Rosenstein said he hopes his report will "be one little link in a long chain that maybe will lead to some real discussions" about how athletic finances need to change.

Pension breakdown

Of the 34 retired state employees with annual pensions above $300,000, 25 have ties to the University of Illinois:

1. Leslie Heffez UIC oral surgeon $581,227
2. Tapas Das Gupta UIC cancer surgeon $494,773
3. Edward Abraham UIC orthopedic surgeon $480,762
4. Ronald Guenther UIUC athletic director $473,094
5. Joseph Flaherty UIC med school dean $433,290
6. Peter Maggs UIUC law professor $429,646
7. Mahmood Mafee UIC radiologist $429,095
8. James Stukel UI president $402,293
9. Herand Abcarian UIC physician $392,682
10. Ronald Albrecht UIC physician $391,199
13. James Ausman UIC neurosurgeon $359,252
14. Arthur Kramer UIUC Beckman Institute director $349,560
15. Lou Henson UI basketball coach $347,058
16. Andrew Wilbur UIC radiologist $346,533
17. Robert Easter UI president $341,018
18. Jacob Wilensky UIC opthalmologist $334,872
19. Phillip Forman UIC medical school dean $326,441
20. James Feld UIC anesthesiologist $322,847
22. Joel Sugar UIC opthalmologist $317,752
27. Jesse Delia UIUC dean/acting provost $309,932
28. Craig Bazzani UI vice president $307,894
30. George Honig UIC pediatric oncologist $305,557
32. Indru Punwani UIC pediatric dentist $300,882
33. Ross Solaro UIC physiology/biophysics professor $300,703
34. Thomas Layden UIC internal medicine head $300,032


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BruckJr wrote on November 07, 2017 at 8:11 am

Goodness gracious, is there a bigger waste of taxpayer dollars than the department of media and cinema studies?  Those who live in glass houses.....

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on November 07, 2017 at 11:11 am
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Gosh, and here was me thinking you were a genuine Pretend Fiscal Conservative. But if that were the case, you'd welcome an audit, wouldn't you?

Kudos to Julie and Jay. I've (formally) asked the question about pension liabilities at least twice, and got corkscrew answers every time.

IllinoisAlum wrote on November 07, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Yes, let's equate a semi-professional sports program to an academic unit at an institution of higher education....

Jay Rosenstein wrote on November 08, 2017 at 5:11 pm

The department of Media & Cinema Studies doesn't waste any taxpayer dollars.  We exist because there is a huge demand for it from students.  Put into business terms, there is a huge demand for it from the university's customers.  Almost all of our classes are completely full.  That means we actually earn more money for the university than it spend on us, unlike the athletic department.  We are one of the greatest financial bargains for the University AND the taxpayers.


Now, what else have you got?

BruckJr wrote on November 09, 2017 at 8:11 am

Of course you are.  You've done the research for your department as you have for the athletic department, I assume?  You folks are paying for your own pensions and benefits in the same manner as you suggest that the athletic department should?  Paying for your own buildings, maintenance and utilities like the athletic department does?  Paying for your own scholarships like they do?  Feeding your own students like they do?  I've visited your headfake link and find no evidence of said research.  If it exists could you provide a link?

Lostinspace wrote on November 07, 2017 at 9:11 am

What is needed is an independent audit.

wykhb wrote on November 08, 2017 at 10:11 am

I believe that person is referring to an audit of the DIA in particular.  Since they moved their finances to a private company and partioned themselves as a seperate entity from the UI, they do not have to comply with reporting laws for publicly financed entitities.  Got a link to that?

IlliniwekMerica wrote on November 07, 2017 at 9:11 am

If anything, this points to how poorly the public pension system works in Illinois, which we've known for decades.

Someone who knows should just calculate all the free marketing dollars the athletic department is generating for the school, which likely more than offset any small amount of actual tax dollars going to the DIA.

A strong athletic reputation helps the adcademic side of the school, and vise versa. I'm glad that there are people checking to make sure it's not too imbalanced, but all of the arguements raised in this article/ the documentary seem like this arguement is being stretched pretty far to serve an agenda. 

IllinoisAlum wrote on November 07, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Free marketing dollars? I wasn't aware that the U of I had a shortage of qualified applicants or any sort of awareness problem.

88illiniwek wrote on November 07, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Why a dept of cinema studies? What a WASTE of tax payer $$$$$$$. 

And why does Rosensteen complain so much? Where does he find the time to teach? Or does he not?

Rosensteen ought to get a job at Florida State. There he can complain about Indians and Greek life and athletics a lot more. 

Jay Rosenstein wrote on November 08, 2017 at 5:11 pm

The department of Media & Cinema Studies doesn't waste taxpayer money.  I understand that YOU don't like that it exists, but there is a huge demand for it from the university's students (i.e. the customers).  Unlike the athletic department, we make money for the university.

As far as complaining is concerned, I have a question for you: do you want to know how your tax money is being spent, or do you not?  If you don't, then I can understand why you are so angry at me.
If you do, then I just published a four-part series that, for the first time, shows the public how its money is being spent by athletics.

How do I find the time to teach? Like all faculty at U of I, I have two jobs: as a researcher and as a teacher.  The researcher part is a full-time job on its own.  So yes, like all faculty members it is often difficult to find the time to teach as well.  But we do it, because it is a requirement of our jobs.  If we didn't teach when told to, we could be terminated.  If you want to know exactly what and when I teach, I'm sure that information is available publicly.  So go find it.

I'm not going to Florida State, but thanks for the suggestion.

Reykjavik wrote on November 07, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Re "A strong athletic reputation helps the adcademic side of the school ...'

You might have a point, but U Chicago has no high level sports, and it is an internationally esteemed institution of education and research. 

It is pointless to argue that UIUC drop its athletic program because that is not going to happen.

wayward wrote on November 07, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Dear Dr. Rosenstein,

Please fix the certificate on your site.

WMA500 wrote on November 07, 2017 at 2:11 pm

This is a piece about pension plans in Illinois.  That's the real issue.  But Rosenstein has such a bias against U of I athletics and is seeking clicks, so he presents this point of view solely through the finances of the DIA.  Did he explore or present pension numbers for any other department?  Nope.  Did he do a comparative study of fees charged to students at other state or Big 10 universities?  Nope.  Why not Jay?  Did he even offer an explanation of why he didn't seek to do any of that?  Nope. 

Illinois pension plans have been poorly run and the state's citizens are paying the price for that.  Doesn't matter if it's state workers, Chicago teachers or first responders, or teachers at state universities.  Read the SURS annual report to see just how underfunded that plan is.  But full and complete research isn't as meaty to the author as targeting the U of I atheltic department.  

Director Whitman presented clear answers and rebutals to Rosenstein's claims.  Illinois competes in the Big 10 and if you want to play with the big boys, you're going to have to run a department that's competetive.  Part of his challenge is to do so with as fiscally sound an approach as possible, while balancing investments that need to be made in personnel and facilities.  Revenues have gone up wildly in recent years and it's awfully tempting to want to spend heavy and bank on revenue continuing to grow.  As a citizen, I applaud Director Whitman on his fiscal responsibility in running the DIA.  As he points out, student fees to support athletics are some of the lowest in the Big 10.  Whitman painted a clear picture when he presented the DIA's finances back in February '17.

With faculty like this, who needs enemies?  


IllinoisAlum wrote on November 07, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Are you really suggesting that we should be comparing the finances of an academic unit (you know, the core mission of the university) with the finances of an athletic department (which has no purpose directly related to education)?

The point is that even forgetting the dollar amounts (though they are not insignificant), the principle itself is unsettling: in a time of skyrocketing costs of higher education, students are forced (yes, forced) to pay for an athletic department. The university shouldn't be in the entertainment business, it should be in the education business. Is the DIA the 'silver bullet' to solving education costs? No. But it represents a larger issue of 'ammenity' creep, so to speak. Rather than focus on actual education, universities have somehow conned students and parents into thinking it is worth it to pay for what amounts to a professional sports team, for fancy dorms (rather than cheaper private housing), state-of-the-art gym facilities, etc. 

WMA500 wrote on November 07, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Welcome to 2017, and life in the Big 10.  Jump on in, the water's warm. 

There's always the D III model, if you don't like this.  The University of Chicago made that decision back in about 1940 or so.  And the Ivy's went to the Division 1AA model back in 1980 or so (er, they were pretty much foreced into that division by the larger schools).  

As to universities conning students and parents, that's a huge stretch.  Student fees are commonplace at every major university and even deeply into the Division II and III models.  They cover all sorts of things, from facilities, to computers, to athletics.  Nobody was conned and they're disclosed.  

Every student use the AARC?  Nope.  Do they all pay for it? Yep.  That's how it goes when you have a university of 40,000 students.  U of I has chosen to be part of the highest level of athletics in Division I sports.  To compete...ney...to stay even remotedly mid pack, it requires investment in personnel and facilities.  Those things cost money.  And a well run athletic department balances those costs against expected revenues.  Sometimes there's a surplus, sometimes there's a shortfall.  And sometimes people with an agenda feel compelled to shape the story how they see fit.  


IllinoisAlum wrote on November 07, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Fair points all around.

Yes, it's obvious that the U of I has chosen to be in the athletic entertainment business. The whole point of this criticism and discussion is to bring in to question whether that choice was wrong and if changes should be made. Especially in the time where higher ed costs and public university budgets are in shambles. I'm all for a self-staining athletic department. For many years (and to a large extent today), the DIA has claimed (generally) that they are 'independently funded' and that they don't serve as a burden to students. While they are *largely* independently funded, we know that not to be the case. And while you and I know those facts, the average person likely doesn't. Certainly not the average student. And the athletic administration has done nothing to be transparent (though Whitman says he will be different).

You are quick to point out the potential nefarious motivations driving Rosenstein. I have no dog in that fight and have nothing to add. But my point is that you are quick to think that way about Rosenstein but ignore the more obvious ill-intentions of the DIA. Like any budget unit, they are self-serving, except they aren't an academic unit and I have zero respect for such self-serving. I know from first-hand experience that the DIA has intentionally tried to mislead students in the past. The Assembly Hall renovation fee, for example. They claimed from the start that it would be a 'student initiated' fee, as if it was somehow a student idea. They formed a 'student committee' which consisted of Orange Krush members. They stalled on giving budget details and gave misleading budget details, despite efforts by students to be more transparent. They failed to disclose that the Assembly Hall would be re-named. They literally used DIA resources and employees to lobby for students to pass the fee, using student money to obtain....more student money. Broke multiple student election rules in the process. Every athletic renovation for decades has involved increases in student fees, often despite claims by the DIA that it wouldn't. Students are still paying millions each year in financing for renovations from more than a decade ago. Whitman says the upcoming football facility construction won't impact student fees. I like Whitman and I hope he's different from his predecessors, but based on history I'm not holding my breath.

Even in this article, the DIA statements are disengenuine. The DIA gives funds to the university for student tuition waivers. Really? As if that's somehow doing the university a favor, rather than simply covering their own costs that they have incurred?

There is absolutely no justification for requiring students to subsidize a semi-pro athletics program. I mean, talk to anyone else from outside of the US...they would be completely baffled at why a university has a 60,000 capacity sports stadium. I guess I'm really arguing with the DIA, not you. You're absolutely right - this is the situation the U of I is in and the related costs are part of that. Is hoping that things can change a pipe dream? Probably, but I think it's important for concerns like these to be brought up for discussion, even if by inflamatory figures.

WMA500 wrote on November 07, 2017 at 4:11 pm

You can argue all you want about whether athletics should be part of the univerisity and the ultimate question is, what purpose does the entire athletic program serve?  It's a valid question.  It's a question I often wrestled with many years ago.  It's not education in a traditional sense.  It's not done in a traditional classroom setting, or with traditional faculty.  You don't get a degree in it, certainly.  Participation on the field is limited to very few.  All those things are true and can and should be debated at a  philisophical level.  Could go on and on as to how it differs from academics.  What is the point of paying ANY coach, let alone the current football coach $3 million?

But...that's not how the university looks at athletics.  Illinois is a big time university that has chosen to embrace competetive athletics as a component of it university.  It does so at the highest level, in the most pretigeoius conference in the land.  It made that decision long ago and it's not something that gets presented for renewal every few years.  It's permanent.  It's a way for Illinois to shine, to promote, to compete, to celebrate.  And as a result, it's here to stay.  It ain't going away (just as sure as the Chief ain't comin' back).  

I wouldn't know a thing about previous athletic directors and their shennanigans around fees, fund raising and elections.  It's about doing the right things now, with the right people in place, and I believe we have that with Director Whitman.  Do some things need to change?  Absolutely.  Do we need more fannys in the seats on Saturdays to help close the operating budget gap?  Absolutely?  Do we want to minimize subsidation of athletics finances on the backs of students?  Heck yes.  

We have 60,000 seat college stadiums far and wide across this land because it's what we do.  It's part of our culture as a country.  We value the competition, the drama, the pagentry, the tradition.  That smart people have optimized turning that into huge revenue streams via TV contracts, sponsorship and ticket sales is just how it goes.  Illinois is part of that process.  

But back to Rosenstein.  He raises great points on the pension issue, and his pieces should be focused on pension structures and disproportionate benefits.  But it's not.  He targets athletics.  Targets it like an Illinois safety trying to separate the ball from the reciever.  And to draw attention, he pastes pictures of the current highly paid football and basketball coaches on his web site, yet the body of his work calls out the benefits paid to a former athletic director who's been gone since 2011, and basketball coaches who left the program in the 90's.  In fact pension reform has been passed to ensure those grossly over paid pension never can accrue again.  Whatever you've gotta do, Jay.   

wykhb wrote on November 08, 2017 at 10:11 am

Can someone explain why the DIA finances are managed by a private company with no requirement to disclose any information to the public?    At a public university I mean, subsidized by taxpayers yet no accountability for the money? 

  I believe the last time I saw a justification for that, it was "DIA is a seperately funded organization from the UI, and therefore does not have to disclose that information". 

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 10:11 am

I think the DIA is required to report info to the NCAA, but not required to publish info publically.  A little weird, yes.  Anyway, the info can ultimately be obtained from the NCAA.

Here's a study that USA Today did on the 2015/2016 year that has total revenues and expenses by university.  


And here's their methodology:


And from their methodology:

"The data, updated for 2016, are based on the revenue and expense reports collected from more than 225 public schools in the NCAA’s Division I that have an obligation to release the data (the NCAA does not release the data publicly). The others are private or are covered under a state exemption."

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 11:11 am

I found this from the 2013-2014 year.  Full annual report on athletic department finances.


It's the latest one I could find.  Not sure about more recent years.  

Note that donations and endowment income accounted for 23% of total revenue.  That's some serious coin offered up by donors. 

And here's a list of endowments to help fund the salaries of coaching and related positions


itazurakko wrote on November 07, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Honestly the NFL and the NBA should just get their own minor leagues and be done with it.

Notice that we don't have these huge salaries in college baseball.

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on November 07, 2017 at 8:11 pm



I have watched your FB program over the past 40 yrs.


Not sure you could beat a D3 school on a consistent basis.


But you stand tall when 14000 show up for NW-UI


In the mean time... the rest of the State seems to have taken notice.


Remember the U of I just asked for an increase in state revenue.



Silence Dogood II wrote on November 08, 2017 at 7:11 am

I still haven’t read a single official thread about the elephant in the room. Yea, that $21 million dollar suckerpunch eyesore a.k.a. Lovie Smith. It was (predictably) convenient that even with a 9+ paragraph discussion, this 2-7 head coach was completely left out. That’s not being open by any generalized definition. Sorry, not buying it.

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 9:11 am

Are you open to the idea that donors have specifically contributed significant funds to the DIA to help fund Lovie's salary?  Contributuions seen as worthy investments by those donors to help elevate the profile and success of the football team?  Contributions that help promote fiscal responsibility to limit the burdens of the DIA on students and other sources of revenue? 

wykhb wrote on November 08, 2017 at 10:11 am

Wouldn't it be more fiscally responsible for donations to make up for the operating deficit that the DIA runs yearly, instead of handing it to an already grossly overpaid coaching staff? 

Do those donors know that their money was going specifically to Lovie, or did they think it was to "support the Illini"? 

Do you have any proof for the many financial assertions you have made in this comment thread, any link to ANY financial audit report for the DIA?   Above all they are spending taxpayer money, why don't they have to be accountable for it?

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 11:11 am

Yes, the DIA should be balanced such that expenses do not exceed revenues.  That's not the case right now and Director Whitman has challenges on his hands to make that happen.  He has chosen the path of investing heavily in the football and basketball programs, with the return being better results on the field/court, and more fans in the seats.  Tickets, concessions, parkings, souveniers, etc., all will help balance the financial budget. That doesn't happen overnight however.  

To help that process, donors...big donors, are called upon to contribute to the program.  They do so knowing full well where the money is going and how it's being used.  Director Whitman has connected with them in a way where they're willing to be part of this significant investment in Illinois athletics.  I have limited first hand knowlege of this process, but you can also see the process at work via the I Fund http://jointheifund.com/index.html

As for other financial assertions I've made, in another reponse I just linked studies to work done by USA Today on the finances of the athletic departments of 225 public universities. 

"Grossly overpaid coaching staff" is a relative term.  Compared to you and me, hell yeah they're grossly overpaid.  Compared to their peers at other Big 10 institutions, no, they're not grossly overpaid.  Out of 14 Big 10 football coaches, Lovie's Smith's annual compensation ranks 11th http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/salaries/ Only Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers coaches are paid less than Lovie.  It is a VERY good time to be a high profile football coach in Division 1 athletics.  That's just how the market works right now.  It 20 years it may be very different, but in the present, this is how it works. 

Silence Dogood II wrote on November 08, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Yes, I am open to any idea of funding that does not dent a single UIUC student’s pocket even for a penny when the only “bowl” that we are making it to year after year  is the Toilet Bowl. Using this same analogy, if donors are flushing their $21 million dollars down the toilet, who am I to argue? Of course I could not thoroughly read and digest the comments about other funding groups etc. etc., but robbing from Peter to pay Paul doesn’t count; you cannot claim to donate money while you’re in a deficit yourself. I remember the last coach getting fired within a few days of Whitman taking the director spot. That was a couple seasons ago. In a season where we should start seeing at least mediocre results, we are in a 2-7 season.

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 12:11 pm

What about all the other fees charged students?  Here's a list from the tuition bill from current fall semester:    

Acad Facility Maint Fund Assment $334

UIUC General Fee $294 (the athletic fee is $34 and is embeded in here, along with several other fees)

Student Initiated Fee $67

UIUC Services Fee $287

UIUC Transportation $62

Library/Information Tech Fee $244

UIUC Health Service Fee $231

This is just for one semester, by the way.  Does every student use every one of these services? Not a chance.  Does every undergrad pay for them?  Yes.  Add all those up and that's $3,038 per year in fees!!!  

All these fees relate to access students have to services, facilities and resources, including the athletic department.  This includes Peter   

Are all these fees perfectly administered and proportial to use by the students?  Probably not.  But Rosenstein just focuses on the athletic fees, to the complete ommission of the impact on students of other simialr fees.  



Jay Rosenstein wrote on November 08, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Dear WMA500,

You sure have a lot to say about me.  So I was wondering, have you actually read what I wrote in my series?  Not what the News-Gazette chose to write about, but what I wrote?  If you haven't - and I know based on your comments that you haven't - why don't you do that before hurlling criticisms at me and questioning my motivation?  Then if you actually want to discuss, I will.

Go to www.theheadfake.org

Read the section about why I wrote the series.  Then we can discuss.



WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 6:11 pm

I've read it all.  

And please update your certificate for your site.  It doesn't load automatically. 

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 9:11 pm

Why is the author always quick to be a quote for a counter point to athletics?  Here's Jay Rosenstein quoted in March '16, shortly after Lovie's hire:

That's not quite the whole story, one UI professor argued.

While praising the Lovie Smith hire as a "brilliant move" by Whitman, media and cinema studies Professor Jay Rosenstein noted that students pay millions in fees to help support athletic facilities, including a sizable chunk of the State Farm Center renovation.

"If the athletic department has so much revenue that it can spend $5 million on buyouts and legal fees," he said, "and on top of that they have $21 million plus whatever bonuses Lovie Smith is going to get ... then I think it's time for them to move out of mom and dad's basement and finally make it on their own.

"Because the fact is that the athletic department is not self-supporting," he said. "It costs the campus money and it costs students money. Students are the group that has the least amount of money. Let's give the students a break."

You can read the full article here  http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2016-03-08/how-will-lovie-smiths-21-million-price-tag-be-received-budget-challenged-state

Ironically, in that same article, then Illinois Student Senate President Mitch Dickey, had the following to say:

"I haven't been this excited about Illinois football probably at any other point in my time on campus."

That's the same Mitch Dickey that Rosenstein quoted in part 3 of his series on student fees.  Mitch also added:

"It's an entertainment industry," Dickey said. "You have to pay market price for the best of the best, to attract the kind of attention and therefore the donations and the revenue streams that would make it possible for those things to happen."

Mitch gets it.  

I want the DIA to run a balanced department as much as anybody.  I believe they will get there.  Students are asked to pay about $3,000 in fees per year, and not surprisingly, some of that goes to the DIA.   



Jay Rosenstein wrote on November 08, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Dear WMA500,

You sure have a lot to say about me.  So I was wondering, have you actually read what I wrote in my series?  Not what the News-Gazette chose to write about, but what I wrote?  If you haven't - and I know based on your comments that you haven't - why don't you do that before hurlling criticisms at me and questioning my motivation?  Then if you actually want to discuss, I will.

Go to www.theheadfake.org

Read the section about why I wrote the series.  Then we can discuss.



BruckJr wrote on November 08, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Smith is still being paid by Tampa Bay this year so his salary at Illinois was backloaded with that in mind.  In 2019 he will be paid $4million and the next year he will be paid $5million.  He'll also receive a million dollar retention bonus if he stays through his third year with another if he stays through his sixth year.  There is also another million dollars available each year as a performance bonus.

Reykjavik wrote on November 08, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Top US institutions in terms of usual parameters (student grades, scholarly and economic impact, etc): CalTech, MIT, U Chicago, Harvard...

Ranking of their athletics teams? Who gives a hoot?

Moral of the story: major athletics programs exist to entertain the masses, many of whom are not wise enough to know the real score.  

If folk want to support athletics, that is their choice.  Just dont squeeze the core university programs.  Student fees should not be used to support major sports efforts.

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Those fine schools have chosen to de-emphasize athletics, and did so long ago. 

U of I is "all in" on athletics.  It's part of the university, it's connected to the university and the student population.  A modest fee charged to students makes up about 3% of the total operating budget of the DIA.  

wykhb wrote on November 08, 2017 at 6:11 pm

These are NOT a "full report" of finances, like every other answer given by or about the DIA, it's a vague generality at best.   This is a TAXPAYER funded institution, by law taxpayers have a RIGHT to know exactly how their money is being spent, and laws actually stipulate that (among myriad other employee requirements) audits must be conducted on entities which receive government funding.

So again I will ask, where is the AUDIT and the findings?   In appearance, what has occurred here is that someone has effectively formed a non-profit entity using the property and resources of a state-owned university, and partitioned themselves off in a way such as they can do as they please without answering to anyone really.   It's an opinion, but it's based on direct observation over a good number of years, and a whole lot of facts.   

They take taxpayer money, WHERE IS THE AUDIT?  If these are state employees, where is the general payscale?  The NCAA contains no elected representatives at all by the way, nor does the big ten network.  

And finally, are you employed by the DIA or University of Illinois in any way WMA?  It seems like you have a vested interest in being a spokesperson for them.?   

WMA500 wrote on November 08, 2017 at 8:11 pm

You are correct, it's not a full audited report, it's what the DIA published as their annual report and what I could find doing some searching on line in order to get some general information.  I'm not familiar with the requirements of how the DIA should report its affairs each year, so I defer on what they're required to do. 

The audit of the fund where taxpayer money goes is here http://surs.com/sites/default/files/annual_report/COMP-FY2016.pdf

And frankly, you're probably dead on in describing how the DIA has been artfully partitioned off into a separate entity.  If you have questions about complaince with reporting requirements of the DIA, you'd have to take those up with them.

As for me, I'm not connected to the university or DIA in any way.  I don't speak for them in any capacity.  I am a resident of Illinois, a tax payer, and a fee payin' parent of a student at U of I.  I'm passionate and want success, done the right way, for the athletic teams.  I'm not blind or naive however.  I know what successful athletics can do for a university.  Having a healthy, successful athletic department benefits all stakeholders of the university and Illinois should strive for that.  I belive Director Whitman is the man for the job and I believe he should be supported to do that job by all elements of the university.   

wykhb wrote on November 09, 2017 at 1:11 am

Thank you for a frank and open-minded discussion about this, I understand your point of view and appreciate your passion toward supporting the success of students, who are too often disregarded by the very people who use publicly funded institutions as a vehicle to enrich themselves.

Personally, I don't care who the coach is, I don't care who the players are, I don't care who the mascot is (no Chief discussion please), and obviously I don't care about winning since we have not been accustomed to that for a long time.  I show up because I have a stake in UI from perspectives both as an alumnus, and friend to many who also are, or have family members who attended UI.  I show up as a resident of the CU area, I show up because I have a stake in ALL of these.  I don't see the same properties among the people running the university, but I seldom wonder where their loyalties really lie since it's pretty obvious. 

And that's really my point.  I look at salaries and expenditures from a decade ago and the very successful position of the programs on the national level, and I see what has changed since then and the results.  I conclude that ridiculously increased salaries and expenditures has had no beneficial effect, and has actually served to alienate more fans and donors, which is masked by outside income from entities solely interested in the programs from a financial standpoint.   

Who do skyboxes and luxury suites REALLY serve?  If all that money is so necessary as to demand sacrifices by the "common folk", why have these decisions been strategically masked from public view and why have they resulted in an organization that runs a deficit while claiming that all this increased income is beneficial?  That's not even good practice from a business point of view, despite constant claims that this is what drives these actions.  Again, a taxpayer supported entity that someone feels is a "business", yet has none of the transparency or regulation of an actual business, and very little even from a governmental standpoint?

 Is getting to a national championship at ANY cost really what the priority should be?  Or is giving more students more opportunity a better direction?  Is disregarding the actual people who MAKE the university what it is really an intelligent business model, or simply more beneficial to certain people? 

As for media studies or other programs in particular, like you those students have parents who support their dreams, and those programs appear to be much more financially viable simply from a transparency standpoint by which people can SEE where their money is actually going.  They may not pay their professors $20 million, but they have produced alumni who have successfully earned far more than that who in turn gave back to the UI, or at least offered to.  Again, another discussion.
  I have seen no continual controversy or outcry over those programs, which leads me to conclude that there actually isn't much wrong there.   The gentleman expressing his views is actually correct to demand accountability from a public institution, and correct to stand up for students and other stakeholders in UI.  More people need to start demanding the same from DIA, or start demanding a refund. 

Jay Rosenstein wrote on November 09, 2017 at 7:11 pm

I too believe Josh Whitman will be an outstanding athletic director.  You may be shocked to hear that I actually know him well.

Josh Whitman is not the issue here.  The issue is a system that forces students who are drowning in debt to subsidize an athletic department that is swimming in money.  It's Robin Hood in reverse.  I think it is wrong, I think it is shameful, and I think it is immoral. 

There is absolutely no reason why the DIA can't REALLY be self-sufficient; there's plenty of revenue.  But they're not going to volunteer to do it on their own.  They're not going to refuse the money that students are forced into giving them.  As sportswriter Rick Telander says in my story (which you said you read), "there's no amount of money that is too much for an athletic department. None."

As I'm sure you saw in my story, Purdue University runs an athletic program every bit as good and every bit as competitive as Illinois, yet it charges zero student fees.  If Purdue can do it, why can't Illinois?  Purdue's ticket sales in 2015 were the lowest in the Big Ten, yet it didn't cry that it had to force students to pay.

The reason why Purdue can do it is because they have decided to.  That's it.  They have leadership who agrees with me, that it is wrong to force every student to pay for something that is creating multimillionaires out of its coaches.  I sat face to face with Purdue President Mitch Daniels, and he explained it very clearly.

I'm curious to know why there is so much hatred spewed at me personally for 1) disclosing the true cost of athletics to taxpayers and students - do you not want to be informed about that?  do you really think the Champaign sports media is every going to inform you about that?  and 2) advocating that athletics actually pay its own way rather than on the backs of students.  Is that such a totally offensive concept to you?

As for my department, Media and Cinema Studies, if our faculty were making the same salaries as the athletic department, then I think you could make a comparison (ignoring the fact that we are actually providing the core functions of why a university exists, unlike an athletic department).

So, I'll say it again: why can't the DIA pay its own way?

And why do you hate me so much for suggesting it?

CommonSenseless wrote on November 10, 2017 at 8:11 am


If you think the hatred toward you is because of this little financial article, you are extremely obtuse. Everything you do is seen as an assault on U of I athletics, because you made your name assaulting U of I traditions. Consider a pseudonym next time.  

WMA500 wrote on November 10, 2017 at 9:11 am

So let me see if I have this straight.  You know Director Whitman "quite well".  And you pose a very valid question as to why can't the DIA pay it's own way.  Yet nowhere in your four part series, did you bother to ask that question directly to Whitman or anyone else at the DIA.  Instead you drove 186 miles round trip to talk to...the Purdue President?  Heck, Julie Wurth, in her article on Monday, has tons of quotes and statements from Whitman.  Come on, man.  Why go directly to the source, when you can literally go the long way around and shape the issue how you want?  Hope you had a good time in West Lafayette, I hear it's nice.  While you were doing that, Josh was Champaign, busting his back side, trying to make this program better.  

As you said in your "author's note", your hope was that your series "will make you angry".  Consider me angry Jay, that you continue to target the DIA.  My responses back are not driven by hate, but rather a need to push back on your agenda driven work with great passion and give support to what Illinois athletics is trying to become in the present and future.  #WeWillWin

Again I ask, with faculty like this, who needs enemies?


P.S. If you haven't already done so, I would encourage you to read Rick Tellander's book, The Hundred Yard Lie, first published nearly 30 years ago.  It's a fascinating first hand account of corruption in college football in the 80's. 


wykhb wrote on November 11, 2017 at 2:11 am

WMA, It is obvious that you have a personal problem with this Jay person, which is fine, but it is a distraction from the real points behind this article.  He wrote a bunch of things without going to talk to someone, kind of like... you.. are.. doing..    

Do you have some evidence of wrongdoing or controversy involving the department of cinema or media studies or whatnot, or is this just grinding an axe?

Nothing you wrote, and none of the "evidence" you presented discounted ANY of the information that he provided.  Could we stick to that and dispense with the standard diversionary tactics which enable the morass that is drowning taxpayers in this state? 

Seriously, the guy is wide open with his identity, not even hard to find I would suppose, go talk to him instead of carrying on through a medium most likely designed by a graduate of a media studies program. 

lilyoliver wrote on November 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm
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Director Whitman presented clear answers and rebutals to Rosenstein's claims. Illinois competes in the Big 10 and if you want to play with the big boys, you're going to have to run a department that's competetive. Part of his challenge is to do so with as fiscally sound an approach as possible, while balancing investments that need to be made in personnel and facilities. Revenues have gone up wildly in recent years and it's awfully tempting to want to spend heavy and bank on revenue continuing to grow. As a citizen, I applaud Director Whitman on his fiscal responsibility in running the DIA. As he points out, student fees to support athletics are some of the lowest in the Big 10. Whitman painted a clear picture when he presented the DIA's finances back in February '17.

Lily Oliver | madalin stunt cars 2 | happy wheels  

Jay Rosenstein wrote on November 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Hate me all you like.  I don't care.  At least I have the guts not to hide behind an anonymous sign in.
Everything I said in the series is true.  None of Whitman's comments refute any of my facts.  He is just giving justifications for why these facts are what they are.  That's fine.  I stand on the integrity of my work.

Obviously you are just too sensitive to hear any facts about the athletic department that tarnish your fantasies about it.  Here's a trigger warning: don't read anything I write.

I also have a 60 minute video interview with Mr. Whitman on this subject for a documentary.  He asked I not quote from it in this series, so I honored his request.  So go ahead and fling more insults at me for not interviewing Josh, because you obviously know everything.

I will never, ever stop speaking out against Chief Illiniwek.  Ever.  So cover your sensitive ears if it hurts you.  And don't waste anyone's time with your comments about me because of your lust for Illiniwek.

This is the last I will ever address you.  Until you switch to another anonymous name.

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