A Notable Club at the University of Oregon January 12, 2011

A Notable Club at the University of Oregon

The BCS championship game between Oregon and Auburn is over but there’s one tangential story worth sharing.

The Oregonian had a side-by-side comparison of the two schools in advance of the game… one of the items was “Notable student club/organization” and guess who was mentioned?

Go, Alliance of Happy Atheists!

Meanwhile, anyone else notice the crazy amount of money spent on the football program operating budget for both schools? It’s ridiculous to say this is money well spent when just about every school in the nation (including many of the big names) lose money due to their athletic programs. That’s money that could be better spent on… you know… education.

(Thanks to Greg for the link!)

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  • Danielle

    Is that why college tuition is so high? To pay for college football?

  • ML

    I am not a football fan, in fact, I hate it, but seems to me football brings in alot of revenue to the schools.

  • asonge

    You need to be more careful with that statement, as people interpret it that “football teams lose money” which is demonstrably false. Almost every SEC team’s FOOTBALL team runs a net profit. Most athletic programs run a deficit. The football team subsidizes the rest of the athletic program, in particular women’s sports which don’t have the revenue streams.

    Auburn is a member of the SEC, and their football team nets them almost $25m a year. That money is nearly all spent on all the other sports which do not net any money and the entire athletics program nets about -$140k

    Oregon isn’t and their football team nets $8m and their athletic program nets -$130k.

    If you want to talk about business decisions, it’d make sense to cut the smaller sports. If you want to talk about preserving culture with not-so-popular sports, you’d use the football team to subsidize that.

    My alma mater (LSU) shows a net gain of $5m to the school coffers from the athletics department and a net profit of (almost) $28m from football alone.

    The source for LSU (and links to all the others): http://www2.indystar.com/NCAA_financial_reports/expense_stat/show?school_id=12

  • Beijingrrl

    Notice it said income not including donations. Or sale of items such as clothing, concessions, etc. Football definitely makes money for universities. I don’t love the emphasis on football in colleges, but it does subsidize a lot of other activities.

  • Kris

    Actually, most football programs do lose money; only the biggest players in the biggest leagues profit from football.

    Also, what’s a Hostess Organization?

  • Reginald Selkirk


  • asonge

    Kris, players don’t make any money in the NCAA. And yes, the Division I schools are the ones that have huge football programs that cost so much money. The ones that don’t make much money also don’t cost so much to run. It’s not usually football that loses the money, it’s the athletics department as a whole.

  • dauntless

    While football does bring in a lot of revenue for schools, it’s still a scourge on the education system. Maybe the “dumb football player” is a stereotype, but it’s one I’ve encountered far too often. They’re basically handed degrees in made-up majors and have free rides through most of their classes, even when the team is a losing one. I’ve spoken to dean’s list football players who couldn’t string three words together.

  • Parse

    Ho Ho! You Ding Dong, it’s no Wonder you don’t know what a Hostess Organization is! I’d hit you with a Sno Ball if I could, but failing that, I must resort to Zingers.

    … Um, whoops. Wrong Hostess Organization. *grin*

  • Cheryl

    Kris, a Hostess Organization helps at alumni, administrator, and special events representing the student body. They are usually aligned with and particular department.

    Living in Alabama I know there are a lot of donations made to these programs. Many of those “donations” are also why some players shop around or get shopped around (i.e. Cam Newton). College football is a big money industry in Alabama. I live in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area and have a connection with one of those programs. There’s a lot of money to be made by a lot of people around here. Most of it is legitimate, but there a quite a few that …..

    I do know both football programs do pay for themselves, so they really don’t take from education. The problem on the education side is there’s none of the shared glory you find with football donors.

  • “Our university sciences dept has found a cure for cancer!”
    Who cares? Your football team sucks! Losers!

    As Cheryl can probably attest the first thing you do when you move to Alabama is pick which team you cheer for. Your location will have a big influence on this decision. If you are religious it is recommended you make this decision before selecting a church to attend. Cheering for the wrong team in your church is not a good idea.

  • Can’t charge for tickets to education.

    …or can you?

  • tlawren

    @ asonge

    I think by players, Kris meant whole teams or programs. Using the word players that way sounds wrong, if not confusing, but people do regularly do it.

  • Sackbut

    Kris said:

    Actually, most football programs do lose money; only the biggest players in the biggest leagues profit from football.

    Yes, this is correct. It should be noted that “biggest players” in this case is not referring to football players, but to programs or schools. Sort of like when you have negotiations with a group of companies and you ask who the “biggest players” in the negotiations are.

    If you look at this NCAA report for information about football outside of Division I-A (in this case, look at Division I-AA, chart on page 62), you’ll see the median value for net revenue for football is a loss of $235,000. I don’t see data for Divisions II and III, but I suspect they lose money on football as well.

    I moved to Alabama recently. Lots of people from Alabama are replying here!

  • Cheryl

    @Tony – I know of a church that many, many years ago fired their preacher because he said something bad about The Bear. Football is very much a religion here. As evidence, there are a lot of Alabamians who will tell you the Bama team is headed up by Coach Satan (Saban).

  • Kris

    Thanks, Sackbut, for pointing out what I meant by “big players.” But I didn’t just mean that non-Division I-A schools lose money; the smaller, less successful Division I-A schools also lose money. It takes filling a huge stadium, a huge fanbase (beyond alumni, for instance), lucrative TV contracts, etc. to be profitable. Really, only the BCS conference schools meet these conditions.

    These smaller/less expensive Division I-A schools are still expected to compete with Auburn, USC, Ohio, Texas, etc. So the costs at this level still rival the top-tier, and are much higher than Division I-AA, but the revenue at these schools is lower. In a non-BCS conference, the TV contracts aren’t worth near as much. Also, Division I-A means the whole team is on full scholarship, and that’s a huge cost.

    I went to a small prestigious private school in Division I-A school, and I assure you, our mediocre football program lost money every year, but being in the south, eliminating the program was out of the question.

  • venus

    If i’m reading this right, it says the FOOTBALL PROGRAM OPERATING budget, not the budget for the entire athletic department… and it’s like multi-millions over what the FOOTBALL REVENUE is.

  • Miko


    Actually, most football programs do lose money

    Even without looking at any data on the subject, I’m willing to give you any odds that this isn’t true. Logically, if football programs were costing schools money, they’d get rid of them. It may not show up directly on a budget line, but the schools are nonetheless aware that: 1) football drives donations and 2) football brings in more students, thus allowing them to increase tuition. The unseen gains in these areas must outweigh the seen losses in the program itself, or else the schools would all just cancel the football programs.

  • Football also functions as PR/Advertising for a school, Let’s not forget that. The athletics department here at Oregon is more or less its own unit. It has it own IT, its own catering rules, and ability to sign contracts for marketing. Its self sustaining entirely, Oregon reported $59 million of revenue in its entire athletic department in 2008-09, according to financial records submitted to the NCAA. Auburn reported $58.6 million in just football revenue that year, and $87 million in total operating revenue for its athletics department.

    The Athletics here in Oregon operate in its own capacity, and the donors often kick out money for other buildings, hence for example, The Knight Library here in Eugene. Its disturbing how much we value sports but there are a lot of secondary and tertiary benefits.

    My job actually exists simply because of the athletics department, I’m not employed by the university but rather the bookstore, and we make our own money mostly off sports merchandise. Colleges without sucessful sports programs generally prop their bookstores and lose money on them, where as we make money and give back to the school as we’re a nonprofit.

  • Silent Service

    Amazing how much justification goes into keeping football teams at colleges.

    1) football drives donations and 2) football brings in more students

    Both of these statements have no evidence to support them. You have no supporting evidence that a majority of students at small schools care about the football team or that they will suddenly care about their college football team in 20 years and make major donations.

    The big teams draw in all the big support. Smaller schools simply copy the model out of habit.

  • siveambrai


    I would like to make one large point and correction to your post. My husband works within the athletic department at a Big10 school. Most athletic departments at schools like Oregon and talked about in the article you linked are financially independent from their associated universities. Meaning that precisely $0 dollars from tuition or other funding that students pay into the system goes towards the athletic departments. The university has access to the athletic department’s accounts and can draw from those accounts to pay checks in the university’s name (e.g. my husband’s paycheck is issued by the university but the money is drawn from an independent athletics account that is not pooled with other university funds).

    Additionally, to others talking about the money football teams draw in vs. money spent. There are usually only a handful of sports that bring in money to an athletics department (football, basketball, occasionally volleyball, hockey, wrestling). The income of these sports pay for every single space that the athletics department owns and operates. So all the gyms, all the outdoor tracks and sporting areas, etc are paid by a handful of sports. This also means that all the club teams or less popular sports that are affiliated with the school but don’t act as much of a draw for a large audience are supported on the revenue of the larger sports. Having a football team at our university means that we not only are able to be nationally recognized but that we also get to have excellent facilities for athletic recreation and fun sports like rugby, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, etc.

    Our football team draws people into a very rural town every fall who boost the sales of stores owned by the university and the larger town and provide an excellent windfall that actually makes the cost of living the rest of the year much lower for the students here. Many who donate to the athletics department also donate money to the university in general, not including the many coaches who do so out of generosity and support for the university that gives them their jobs.

    Does this mean I love my football team? Eh. I hate dealing with the crowds and the fact that I can’t get around town on football weekends. Living here it can be quite irritating.

    However, I feel that now that I know how the athletics department operates I do need to be fair in understanding it’s relationship and impact on the university and town that I live in.

  • RJ

    Trust me, that football program brings in much more money than it costs to operate. All thos alumni donate millions of dollars a year to those schools and the revenue made from selling their sports teams paraphenalia(sp?) far outweighs any costs incurred.

  • Freemage

    Silent Service: It’s unlikely that the smaller schools copy the pattern “out of habit”, or all it would take is a few schools to break that mold and suddenly, there’d be evidence that dumping/slashing the football program would save a small school’s bottom line.

    Rather, what’s more likely is that the colleges have not fully adapted to the realities of the internet age. In prior decades, a student heard about colleges from one of three sources:

    1: Friends and family, who would recommend the schools they went to/are going to go to;
    2: Guidance counselors at your school;
    3: Reports on the football games.

    (There’s arguably a fourth category for actively recruited students, but those are pretty much just the top tier of scholarship students; we’re looking for butts-in-seats numbers, here.)

    This is likely changing–a prospective student can research a school’s academic program in their hoped-for field in minutes, and start off with a well-phrased Google search, rather than having to hear about the school first and then request the information. This change, however, is likely a bit slow to occur, and in areas where football remains popular, it is going to be a driving force for some time.

  • Bruce

    @Cheryl is there some reason for the use of the gendered term “hostess” organization? It seems a little odd.

  • Anonuhmuz

    Little UO trivia, Dan Fouts was a QB at Oregon (as shown above) he was a Super Bowl Champion with the Chargers, a TV analyst for ABC and Fox, was featured in the movie the Waterboy, and he’s an atheist!

  • Ugh on the sports. In my third year, my university announced two major construction plans: 1) To renovate/expand the athletics buildings, and 2) To convert a portion of the library into a study area (which would mean less room for books, resulting in a massive book-toss).

    So that’s where my tuition went – better stuff for sports and the trashing of books. Excellent values for a university!

    I never really understood this. If people want to play sports, more power to them! But does it really have to be affiliated with schools? Can’t we have schools be about education and then athletic clubs for sports? Why should my tuition go towards buying equipment for a basketball team (that, let’s be honest, sucks) instead of the purchase of books? And imagine if we spent half the money we were spending on gyms to build new study areas instead of having to gut out huge sections of the library!

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