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In the great tradition of…

Professor James Gundlach and other university sports whistle blowers, Missouri State’s Reed Olsen, an economics professor, has had the guts to expose financial corruption in that school’s athletics program. Background here.

A state audit of MSU’s budget (its results will be released this fall) will presumably clarify how the school’s leadership dissembled in the matter of the profitability of a big new arena it pushed through over strong faculty objection. But without Olsen’s insistence on the truth (despite the president’s assurance that the arena was profitable, it was, and remains, a big loss), the attention of the MSU community, and the attention of far-flung people like UD, would not have been drawn to this all too typical university scandal.

In his dissenting minority report, presented to the faculty senate at about this time last year, Olsen pointed out that the administration was both inflating the revenue stream and hiding the operating costs of the new arena.

To make matters worse, but again totally predictably, arena ticket sales are down.

Any administrator who tells you that ticket sales will support a sports facility takes you for a fool. Ticket sales are madly volatile almost everywhere. Yet again and again administrators think that if you raise prices when the shit hits the fan, things will be fine.

Actually, when you do that, a lot of people drop the whole thing in disgust and stop going to games. I mean, they don’t do this at truly degenerate schools like Kentucky. You could make season tickets seven million dollars apiece at Kentucky, and there wouldn’t be a peep out of anyone. But at most schools you can expect a bit of a walkout.


Bottom line at MSU? Olsen writes (in an email to UD):

… Let’s say that we are looking at a $2M ongoing loss in the arena. This is slightly more than 1% of the operating budget of the university. The university, because of a new state law, cannot raise in-state tuition more than [the] increase in the CPI. And for the last 2 years all universities in the state have agreed to not raise tuition at all in return for mostly stable state funding. So that means that most of this $2M must come out of cuts from other parts of the budget or the small increases in student fees from increased out of state tuition or other types of student fees. Students are assessed a fee for [the arena] which supposedly pays for free student seats at BB games. However, that revenue is included in the accounting, still leaving $2M left to pay. Faculty concern is that it comes out of our pocket …

Indeed Olsen concluded his minority report last year by affirming that the new arena has plenty of “negative impact on the academic mission” of MSU. He reminds the administration that the university’s faculty warned that “the university would [end up paying] for the costs incurred by building a new arena.”


Why do I call this a typical athletic scandal?

Because again and again on this blog I watch jocksniffer presidents and mindless boosters lie and bluster their way to what they want and then make students and faculty – and taxpayers – pay when their pathetic fantasies evaporate.

Universities desperately need rational, informed, steadfast, and ethical professors like Olsen to act as a counterweight to the moronic grandiosity of their sports-mad leaders.

Margaret Soltan, August 4, 2010 8:19AM
Posted in: sport

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8 Responses to “In the great tradition of…”

  1. david foster Says:

    UD, have you by any chance run across the TV series “Friday Night Lights”??…especially with all the sports-related stuff you are writing about, you might find it interesting. It is about an honorable man who is a high-school football coach in a community which is *totally* football-obsessed…sort of a soap opera, but extremely well done, a “Wire”-level series, IMO. First 3 seasons available on Netflix.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    dave: No, haven’t run across it, but it sounds interesting. I’ll watch it.

  3. david foster Says:

    It got off to a slightly slow start…I almost gave up on it about halfway through the first program, but then it really picked up.

  4. Timothy Burke Says:

    I’d also recommend the book on which it is based–I think it gives you some sympathetic but still quite critical sense of why communities continue to blindly support school athletics (high school or college) even when they’re aware on some level that the whole enterprise is corrupting their institutions and their lives in its present form.

  5. superdestroyer Says:


    I always though an interesting book would be for a writer to attend the state championship games for high school football in Texas, high school basketball in Indiana, high school hockey in Minnesota and maybe girls basketball in Iowa.

    The author could also compare by attending a SEC football game, a Big 10 basketball game, and a frozen four hockey game.

    I do not think that Europeans will ever be able to understand the U.S. unless they attend a few high school or college sporting events.

  6. In the provinces Says:

    At “Missouri State University,” the institution formerly known as Southwest Missouri State Teachers’ College, there was never a serious academic program to be damaged by over-spending on athletics in the first place. The institution’s efforts, both accurate and misguided, to become a serious public university (which does require a serious sports program) is a result of the fact that most of Missouri’s leading Republican politicians come from Springfield, where “Missouri State University” is located.

  7. University Diaries » “The university had given Brixey an Aug. 17 deadline to explain not only the missing money but why $81,000 in loose cash was in his locked desk at the bookstore.” Says:

    […] a big new useless stadium about whose profitability the university lied (details here and here and here and here and here and […]

  8. University Diaries » Coming to America’s Big-Time Sports Universities: Litmus Tests for Economics Professors Says:

    […] Reed Olsen? Back in 2010 he told everyone at Missouri State University that their expensive new JQH stadium […]

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