Funding for athletics is justified

fans and sports

Athletics is a big focus in the University’s goal to achieve national recognition.  |  Justin Tijerina /The Cougar

A little more than a year ago, when I first began classes at UH, I was concerned with the University’s spending. It’s been year, and I couldn’t disagree more.

The problem is, most students believe that there is a sort of competition between the academic and athletic departments on campus, but there really isn’t. Athletics and academics are only two expenditures within the UH system and are far more likely to cooperate than ever compete.

First, let’s look at the major problem students have here: funding.

There is a set amount of money which has to be dispersed among different organizations in the UH system, either through the Student Fees Advisory Committee (SFAC), or by the UH System Board of Regents that use all of sources of income. If we take a look at the 2015 budget, will we see a gigantic disparity between athletic and academic funding?

Yes we will.

The approved FY2015 budget for all academic college funding just inside UH’s main campus amounted to $362,103,937. The athletic department as a whole was given $26,429,965.

The same story remains with construction costs. Total, the main campus plans to spend $146,978,295 on what it calls “capital projects” in this fiscal year. Of that money, only $23,190,464 plans to be split between TDECU Stadium and Hofheinz Pavilion.

The most expensive project on the list is the Multi-Disciplinary Research & Engineering building costing $30,038,640, with the Health & Bio Science building coming in second costing $25,266,319.

But what about SFAC funding?

According the same budget, intercollegiate athletics makes up $4,407,707 with another $3,375,000 going to athletic construction projects of the roughly $21 million total SFAC has to allocate, making them the largest draw on the Student Service Fee. Remember, SFAC is made up of students and faculty who decide this issue and can deny this money if a good enough reason for having this money isn’t met.

Keep in mind, we are but one school in the UH system. With a total system-wide budget of $1.5 billion this year, athletics is only getting about four percent of the total system wide budget.

There is not a fight between academics and athletics. With record student enrollment and an ever improving powerhouse of academics, how could one believe that academics were being neglected?

Sure, on the face of it all, a big new football and basketball stadium are worrisome to the average student. As I’ve shown, however, the fears are unwarranted.

“The University must continue to invest in its existing programs and services in order to make progress on its goals of national competitiveness and student success,” according to the budget. “In particular, we must fund new faculty positions in areas of research strength and high instructional demand, and we must provide the financial and academic support needed to recruit Tier One quality students and ensure they graduate in a timely manner.”

Unsurprisingly to me and I’d hope to everyone who reads this, within the budget, the Board of Regents label this “Priority One.”

Opinion columnist Austin Turman is a political science junior and may be reached [email protected]


  • I was wondering where you were able to get that budget plan. I like the idea of the university sharing the budget plan with their students. There are good benefits that can come from being open about it.

  • According to Texas Public Information Act , “Houston reported to the
    NCAA that its athletics collected $144 million in student fees and
    institutional transfers from 2008 to 2014.” All this when there is an
    investigation going “. . . into whether it illegally used $5 million
    reserved for academic purposes to help pay for the football stadium.”
    All the while a 2015 audit reported that spending on equipment, uniforms
    and supplies came in 88% over budget and travel expenses were over 54%. (http://www.texastribune.org/2015/09/03/quest-top-tier-u-houston-spends-big-athletics/)

    I would love to see the budget plan as well, considering that that the University of Houston system is in debt of $174,755,051 (more now as that is 2013 total).

    • There was never any real question about the $5m for the band hall. President Khator had an audit done for the sake of transparency after I asked for several other audits. The “investigation” is over and the $5m was used appropriately.

      Athletics is a tool- people need to view it in the paradigm it exists in. It’s not an end, it’s a means. It is a tool for marketing UH and most valuably, it is a tool for alumni/community engagement- step one in cultivating donors.

    • That might be a valid argument had students not chosen to raise fees on themselves… In 2012 students voted to increase student fees to devote an additional $45/semester per student to contribute to the stadium and arena projects.

      • and I still don’t think the students got all the facts when the vote was held, I was here back then and the pro vote campaigned on how the stadium was needed to be able to accommodate more needed, how it would increase our desirability for new students and how we could never be a competing college without it. Now the stadium is having a problem getting over half full even with a winning football team. The stadium was over budget and the promise of “If the Athletics Department receives more than the projected $75 million
        in donations, it would work to decrease the student fee so students
        would not have to pay.” (dec 1, 2011 https://thedailycougar.com/2011/12/01/students-to-vote-on-fee/) will not happen even though in 2014, students paid UH $126 million in fees. You even have claimed the university is going back on its deal to allow one student event per year each in the stadium and Hofheinz with no facility rental fee as per the agreement made back then.

        • The MOU terms were on a 4 foot sign next to the polling station. I think it was pretty clear what the terms were.

          I think all those points were true and are still true today why we need quality athletic facilities.

          The stadium is well over half full. We are averaging over 31,000 and the remaining home games are pretty close to sold out.

          The issues regarding the MOU were cleared up at the beginning of the year and there are no remaining issues.

  • The title here doesn’t connect with the author’s argument. By just downplaying the percentage of funds athletics takes out of the overall budget, he fails to “justify” why sports deserves to be the tail wagging the dog (or the cat in this instance) of the institution.

    And comparing the budget of the total UH system to the athletic budget fails to account for the fact that only the main campus is being tapped as the athletic programs extra piggy bank.

    Lastly, while UH is enjoying a winning season in football this year, such seasons do NOT come every year. They never have, and never will.

    UH has been through this sort of rodeo before, and the history is very telling where you may end up again when the team is under-performing, state funds are slim, but you have made a lot of costly multi-year bets on sports being a key tool for campus recruitment.

    See: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/Same-as-it-ever-was-UH-s-obsession-with-6493587.php

    Lloyd Jacobson, UH Alum –
    ’89 BA-Poli Sci & ’92 MSW

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