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Post Juxtaposition

Thursday January 22, 2009

Haves and have-nots on the same campus

University of Tennessee officials are discussing how the athletic departments could increase efficiency and possibly generate more funding for academics as the UT system grapples with a projected state funding shortfall of at least $66 million.

In fiscal 2008, the UT athletic department generated a net surplus of about $5.04 million before making transfers of $4.54 million to support the UT system and Knoxville campus programs. Its operating budget is $87.8 million. Surplus funds go into what is “essentially a rainy-day fund” for the department, spokeswoman Tiffany Carpenter said.

You had to figure that in these tough times the disparity between athletic department performance and academic budget shortfalls would emerge as an issue. Georgia is in a similar boat as the university system faces large budget cuts while the UGA athletic department enjoys surpluses that makes Tennessee’s surplus look meager. Both the Tennessee and Georgia athletic departments are more or less distinct entities that aren’t supported by public money, and they do contribute millions of dollars back to their respective universities.

Regardless, the contrast between the financial performance and needs of the academic and athletics departments of these major universities will only continue to sharpen. Tennessee’s athletic department has made its own cuts and is looking at other ways to raise money for the university, but they have been anything but frugal when assembling their new football staff this month. SEC athletic departments will have even more money to spend as new television deals kick in, but public universities dependent upon taxpayer money will have to fight for their share of a smaller pie.

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