Welcome to LSU, where the value of your education is determined by the football team’s success. That was the sardonic beginning of an editorial in The Daily Reveille, LSU’s student newspaper.
“That great professor recruited from an Ivy League school? You can thank quarterback Zach Mettenberger for him. The new beakers in your chemistry lab? Props to defensive end Sam Montgomery for those. Don’t forget about the money you now have to do research overseas, courtesy of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.”
The occasion for this inspired bit of mockery? The annual subsidy agreed to by the LSU Athletic Department, which formalizes the catch-as-catch-can policy — no pun intended — by which athletics contribute to the academic side of the university.
The big wins of the football team in recent years have made the athletic department flush just as the big budget cuts by the Legislature and Gov. Bobby Jindal have slammed the university’s academic prospects.
There are good business reasons for the “transfer policy” to be formalized: Both the university and its athletic department can now budget based on the five-year plan of $7.2 million each year. Plus, a cut of any surpluses that might occur — and we certainly hope that national championships in football or baseball, the big money producers lately, will provide those.
But the Reveille’s editorial is exactly on point: This is no way to run a university. Not for the long term.
The team might not be winning every year, and those prized television revenues and post-season games might not occur. While athletics can contribute, the academic side ought to be better supported by the state. That the athletic teams’ largesse is needed is unfortunate, not an occasion for celebration.
We agree with the Reveille: “It’s time for Louisiana to demand that higher education is prioritized, for the sake of the university’s academic reputation, and for the sake of other higher educational institutions in the state that don’t have athletics departments that regularly bring in millions of dollars.”