NIU’s priorities are set—on the gridiron

By Ken Goze

Good morning, and welcome to another edition of “Higher Education on a Shoestring.”

Before we begin this journey of exploration into the dark, gritty world of financial sodomy and student complicity, we need some good news, something to make our auras radiate pastels, and convince us that justice does exist.

Jimi Hendrix was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame this day last week.

Now for the bitter medicine. As you might have seen in several stories in the Northern Star, we pay about $5 million for athletics through tuition, an athletic fee and a bond fee for buildings.

Taken by itself, this figure doesn’t sound too threatening. The federal deficit will rise by that much by the time you finish reading this. To government bureaucrats, a few million dollars of someone else’s money isn’t much.

However, let’s break this down using some basic math. Math that even a right-brained, high-school algebra flunkie journalist can do.

Let’s figure the cost per athlete. Take the $5 million and divide it by the nearly 400 athletes at NIU. That’s $12,500 per athlete.

Of course, most of it ends up in the high-profile football program, for coaching salaries and travel, with the occasional chartered plane and Led Zeppelin-esque entourage.

Through tuition and fees, you paid $266 last year so that someone else could come to NIU and play ball at a cost of $12,500. That $266 will buy a month’s groceries, a semester’s books, or Bears season tickets or Bulls courtside seats.

You could also go to one of DeKalb’s fine drinking establishments every weekend for two months, if you’re disciplined, and STILL see someone get the bejeezus beat out of them. Every week.

Athletic directors at Division I-A schools argue that a big payoff in gate receipts and TV deals is just around the bend. It hasn’t happened so far after a decade. Eighty-three percent of their money comes from your pocket.

Despite this, we run around playing some vastly superior teams for money and attendance figures that we’d never see at NIU without bringing in busloads of winos from the homeless missions. We’d get a better return by sending someone to Las Vegas with the $5 million and instructions to put it all on the double zero.

Another theory says that athletics somehow brings attention and boosts the academic prestige of a university. Of course, everyone who watches the games knows that NIU has one of the nation’s largest Southeast Asian studies centers.

And the University of Chicago, which pulled out of the Big 10 decades ago, has been reduced to collecting Nobel Prizes every year. Short-sighted fools.

In any case, that $5 million, that $12,500 spent on each athlete, could pay $714,000 to each of the seven colleges, most of which can’t properly pay professors or offer the classes you need. If NIU spent $12,500 on all students, its budget would jump from about $100 million to $350 million.

Call or write a letter to Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell or President John La Tourette and drop it in the campus mail. Come to the fee study meetings later this month.

Someone at this university owes you $12,500.