PULLMAN (Murrow News 8) – Dr. Walden takes WSU’s Land-Grant mission seriously.
“Our three pillars are teaching, research, and outreach,” Walden said. “Athletics is not part of our mission.”
WSU administration is offering athletics between 2 and 3 million dollars in unappropriated funds to subsidize their budget. Walden chairs the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committed that is pushing back.
“No one I’ve talked to is against athletics,” Walden said. “we are interested in supporting a self-sustaining athletic department.”
2019 data reveals 90 percent of division-1 athletic departments need some form of assistance from the university according to WSU Spokesperson Phil Weiler. But Walden argues these funds are better used for education.
“Deferred maintenance is a huge problem at WSU,” Walden says. “It’s hard to do research in a lab from the 1950’s.”
Athletics started the fiscal year owing 84 million. Pre-COVID-19 projections have it reaching 123 million before balancing costs with revenue according to Weiler. The subsidiary is intended to pay for Pac-12 conference dues.
Walden calls the 2-to-3-million-dollar subsidiary a small band aid for a large wound.
There are four necessary prongs to get out of this debt. It starts with refinancing the Martin Stadium projects at a lower rate. At the current rate, the projects are set to be paid off in 2039 according to Weiler.
Athletics also looks to increase revenue and reduce spending along with the subsidized. However, by their own projections, athletics plans to increase spending by several million every year.
So why subsidize the so-called arms race?
“Athletics provides an exposure to Washington State University statewide and nationwide in a way that other programs really don’t,” Weiler said.
It’s assumed the return on investment comes as enrollment. But the faculty committee – and President Schulz – say there is no data at WSU to support that claim nor is there an active plan to collect data and test it.
The senate committee in a statement cites a study by UCLA suggesting department reputation, cost, and financial aid are the most significant factors to undergraduates in their university selection.
“Yes, the identity of Cougar Nation is important to the students,” Walden said. “But a student and their family want the best education for their dollar.”
The Board of Regents will vote on the funding later this spring. If approved, Weiler says the funding kicks in July of 2023.