While everyone who is interested in UA has been watching the allegations against UA President Robert N. Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay pile up over at UA Defender (and wondering if all the rumors spread in the comments section are actually true), I’ve been musing over the op-ed in Sunday’s ADS from Arizona Board of Regents President Ernest Calderón.
This isn’t the first time I’d heard about Calderón’s concern. He mentioned it to me two weeks ago via Twitter:
First, one has to give Calderón props for jumping on the social-multi-ever-present media bandwagon that is Twitter and actually using it to 1. Find me so he can send me tweets and 2. Tweeting provocative stuff. And to top it all off, he’s a snappy dresser and is always willing to talk with the press. What’s not to like?
Now, we all know that UA uses the argument that “athletics is self-supporting” to justify multi-million dollar salaries to coaches and just about everything else. And, in fact, UA athletics are self-supporting in that the money they spend comes from the money they raise from benefactors and ticket sales. And the $378 million building program they want to launch would be no different. However, they operate on state land, and the scholarships given to athletes are revenue that doesn’t land in the university general fund for other expenses.
In addition, there’s such a thing as perception and Calderón is not the only regent who is concerned with perception right now. A university says it is struggling and lays-off hundreds of people but can spend more than $300 million on upgrading athletics buildings? Not to mention, even if said university wants to spend that money, since when does it not run the idea by its overseers – the Arizona Board of Regents – before announcing it to the public? Those were part of Calderón’s points.
And so, essentially drawing a faint line in the sand, Calderón makes his own announcement in the op-ed: He’s set up a committee to look into intercollegiate athletics at the state’s three public universities. “The regents intend to examine college sports enterprises in the context of the value our public investment in athletics returns to our schools, their students and Arizona,” he wrote. And then, in case the “Watch yourselves and keep regents in the loop” message wasn’t clear enough, Calderón gives this walk-off warning:
“Intercollegiate athletics must be accountable to Arizona, or the Board of Regents will reform its practices.”
Shelton and Hay may think they’ve got their hands full with what lately appears to be an imploding campus from the faculty standpoint (another thing the regents are watching carefully), but this interest in athletics by a regent who sees his job as far more than a rubber-stamp for whatever the university presidents want, could prove to be far more vexing. Just sayin’