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Civic Skinny

The rich get richer: Iowa, Iowa State sports money soars.


Money continues to pour into the athletic departments at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

And the departments continue to find ways to spend it — without shipping any to the libraries or the English departments or any other academic endeavors at the two big universities.

The increases in spending on athletics at the two schools far outpace the increases in spending on general education. At the University of Iowa, the athletic budget for this academic year has jumped to more than $93 million from about $70 million five years ago, an increase of 32 percent. The general education budget at the university has gone up 19.1 percent. At Iowa State, the athletic budget has soared to $70 million, up from $41.6 million five years ago. That’s a jump of 68 percent. The general-education budget at Iowa State has gone up 35 percent in that time.

The fiscal 2016 figures come from reports being presented to the Board of Regents this week.

The huge increases are almost entirely from Big 10 and Big 12 television deals and bowl money, which is shared among all teams whether they go to a bowl or not. The Big Ten network, which is owned jointly by the conference and by Fox Television, was launched in 2007. In the first year, it distributed about $9 million to each school; this year, the number is likely to be about $34 million, and it is expected to rise by another $10 million — to $44.5 million — by the 2017-2018 school year, according to a Big Ten document obtained last year by the Lafayette, Indiana, Journal & Courier.

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At Iowa State, conference and NCAA revenue is budgeted to jump to $29.1 million this year, up from $26 million last year and $9.8 million five years ago.

Until the television money started flooding the two schools, the universities regularly subsidized the athletic departments with money from the general fund — from tuition dollars or state appropriations. It’s hard to calculate the exact subsidy — it depends on how you figure the value of scholarships, among other things — but the checks were running between $2 million and $3 million a year. Ten years ago, for instance, the University of Iowa athletic department received about $1.7 million in university support, 3.6 percent of its sports budget, and Iowa State received $2.8 million, 10 percent of its sports budget.

But as the new money came in, the athletic departments found new ways to spend it, making sure that expenses magically equaled the ever-rising revenue numbers. The universities, which always say they are strapped for money, never demanded to be repaid for all the money fronted for decades, and the athletic departments never offered.

Rather, they raised salaries, built and expanded facilities and added to their bureaucracies. The University of Iowa will spend $15.6 million this year servicing debt on its athletic facilities, up from $11.1 million five years ago — and it plans to sell more bonds to finance an $85 million modernization of the north end of Kinnick Stadium.

The university this year will spend $21.5 million on football, up 33.7 percent from $16.1 million five years ago. The football program traditionally makes money, but this year it is projected to lose about $2 million “due to an expected decline in season-ticket sales,” a Regents docket item says. As a whole, all men’s sports will produce about $24 million in revenue and cost about $34.1 million — a difference of a bit more than $10 million. Women’s sports will take in just $258,000 but will cost about $16 million. Indeed, Iowa women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder last year made $750,000 — two-and-a-half times as much as the entire women’s sports program brought in in the year.

Iowa State has changed the way it reports its figures, so you can’t compare sports over the five-year period. But its debt service will jump to $8.3 million this year from about $6.8 million last year. And precise comparisons by sport can’t be calculated because salaries aren’t listed by sport, but it seems that football and men’s basketball probably make a little on a stand-alone basis while all other sports lose money.

Even at the University of Northern Iowa, the rise in the sports budget is outpacing the rise in the money spent on general education. The athletics budget this year is a bit more than $13 million, up 11.4 percent from the $11.7 million of five years ago. The general-education budget this year is around $171 million, up 8.3 percent from the $158 million of five years ago. But UNI still struggles: Its sports budget this year includes $2.8 million in university support for athletic operations and another $1.3 million for athletic scholarships. While Iowa and ISU rake in tens of millions from television and bowl games, UNI this year will get $954,700 in NCAA and conference support. …

Dan Baldi, the Des Moines pain-management doctor whom jurors last year said wasn’t guilty of the seven involuntary manslaughter charges Polk County prosecutors brought against him in 2012, could soon have his medical license back. His lawyers and lawyers for the Iowa Board of Medicine are close to a deal to restore the license of the 53-year-old doctor, though any deal would have to be approved by the board itself.

Prosecutors said Baldi prescribed the pain drugs that caused the deaths of seven patients  — including Slipknot bass player Paul Gray — but lawyer Guy Cook successfully argued that the deaths weren’t caused by drugs Baldi prescribed. The Board of Medicine brought administrative charges against Baldi, who agreed not to practice medicine while the administrative and legal charges were pending.

Since the trial ended, Baldi, a dedicated bicyclist, has been helping out at the Des Moines Bicycle Collective, where he now is the shop manager. …

For all the time they are spending in Iowa, the presidential hopefuls haven’t raised much money here. In all, 10 Republicans and three Democrats report raising just $205,601 so far — with Republicans raising $135,815 and Democrats $69,786. Hillary Clinton is the biggest money-getter with $51,891. Among her contributors at the maximum level of $2,700: Bonnie Campbell, Roxanne Conlin, Bill Knapp, Susan Knapp and Jerry Crawford — and registered Republican Patty Cownie. John Ruan III and his wife, Janis, each has given $2,700 to Jeb Bush, and so have Mark Jacobs, Christy Troen and Jon Troen. Nick Weltha has given $2,700 to Rand Paul. Nick Ryan has given $2,700 to Mike Huckabee, and Ron Daniels has given $5,400, apparently assuming Huckabee will be the nominee and thus eligible for that second $2,700.

No Iowan has given any money to Donald Trump. CV


Comment: Tuition

The mid-year, $100-per-semester increase in in-state tuition that the Board of Regents is considering this week looks more like a pissing match with the Governor and the Legislature than like a real need for money.

The $100 from 35,000 Iowa families would bring in about $3.5 million to the three state universities.

These universities have a combined fiscal 2016 budget of about $5.5 billion — billion, with a b. Take out the money for the University of Iowa Hospitals, for athletics, for housing and the like, and you have an educational budget of about $1.5 billion.

Three-and-a-half million dollars is about a quarter of one percent of $1.5 billion.

A quarter of one percent: The universities could find that under the cushions.

The Regents have done a great service to Iowa families by keeping tuition frozen for the past two years, sometimes with the help of the Legislature, sometimes not. They said they’d freeze the rates again this year if the Legislature would add $21.7 million to the appropriation of $520 million or so earmarked for education. Instead, the universities got around $6.5 million.

The Regents had lobbied hard, and Regents President Bruce Rastetter had showered money on Gov. Terry Branstad and House Speaker Kraig Paulsen in their most recent elections, but in the end the ever-more-conservative Governor and Speaker snubbed their benefactor and fellow Republican. That followed the Legislature’s rejection of Rastetter’s complicated formula for redistributing state aid among the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa.

The next thing you know, Rastetter was proposing a tuition increase to, in the words of a board agenda item, sustain “a quality teaching and learning environment.” But if the quality of teaching at the three universities hinges on $3.5 million, they’re in trouble.

One hundred dollars means a lot to a lot of Iowa families, who struggle to send their sons and daughters to college. The Regents figure it costs $20,335 for an Iowan to attend the University of Iowa, $19,456 to attend Iowa State University, and $19,198 to go to the University of Northern Iowa. The median income of an Iowa household is a bit over $52,000 — and has been declining for eight years. Per-capita income is less than $28,000.

Indications are the Regents will approve the $100 increase at their telephonic meeting this week. But this week’s vote is conditional; the binding vote will be at the September 9 meeting.

Fortunately, the nine Regents will have time to think twice about all this. CV

— Michael Gartner



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