THE MORNING PAPER: College budgets, some advice, and more

A hodgepodge of news out there this morning to pass along to you.

In continuing to look at the state of college athletics in Washington, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times investigates the respective athletics budgets of UW and WSU and finds that like a lot of businesses, how you run your books has a lot to do with things.

Take the University of Washington, for example. AD Scott Woodward told anyone who would listen during the last legislative session that the Huskies were completely self-sufficient as an athletic department. That's mostly true. But the University of Washington receives the same tuition waivers for female athletes -- which come from the state -- that WSU does. Woodward says the UW "didn't ask for them," takes them because they're available, and that it doesn't invalidate the larger claim.

Accurate? Depends on your perspective. If you're a Husky, you say, "Absolutely!" As a Coug, you say, "Disingenuous at best."

Now, take Washington State University. Husky fans would tell anyone who would listen that the state has to "subsidize" WSU athletics for it to be viable. They largely hang that claim on two things: 1) The same tuition waivers UW receives, and 2) The money WSU sometimes receives from the general fund to balance the books. AD Jim Sterk says that second money allocation comes from money generated from auxilliary enterprises such as publications -- not from the general operating budget. Sterk also notes that athletics are a "net gain" for the university because of the money the department pays the school for tuition, housing, meals and books.

Accurate? Again, sort of. If you're a Coug, you say, "Absolutely!" If you're a Husky, you say, "That some funny books you got there where you're taking money out of your left pocket and putting it in your right ..."

And when you look at other schools, the story is much the same. Oregon says it's self-sufficient, but receives lottery money; Arizona says it's self-sufficient, but receives 315 tuition waivers; on and on and on.

"It's different institutions with different systems," Sterk said. "And that's why the NCAA has had a tough time trying to compare apples and apples. Those of us in the business know it's done differently at different places, that you get different ways of accounting for expenses and revenues and where charges start and stop. It's very, very difficult [to compare]."

I think the lesson here is plain and simple, which it should have been before: Take everything everyone says when posturing for political gain with a grain of salt. It's like when the Mariners say they had an operating loss of $XX millions in a year. It might be true for that fiscal year, but that doesn't really take into account the money that was made in previous years, or the money the investors figure to gain from the sale of the franchise at some point in the future.

My advice? When considering proposals, evaluate them on their own merits. Is it a good idea to use public money to renovate Husky Stadium? Really, if it's a worthwhile investment of public funds, that should be independent of the athletic department's financial state. If it's worth $50 million, $150 million, $300 million to the state, then that's what it's worth. If it's not, then it's not. Ignore the rhetoric.

By the way, don't think this is the end of the budget talk. President Floyd is slated to announce the school's budget later today, and some of the details have already been leaked. Ouch.

Moving on.

  • Cougfan.com reported this news earlier in the week, but the Contra Costa Times comes in with the local angle on the football team's most recent commit, defensive back Damante Horton. How big of a get this is for the Cougs obviously won't be known for some time, but the WSU staff sure seems to think highly of him:

    "(Washington State) is very excited about him playing DB," his coach, Desmond Gumbs, said. "He was No. 1 on their board. He's a great find for them."

    Goodness knows we need as much help as possible in that secondary. Is it too late for him to graduate early and come to school?
  • You might have seen that the Texas district attorney is talking tough with Ryan Leaf. TNT columnist John McGrath has some great advice for him.
  • Howie Stalwick gives a few more details on the basketball game in Kennewick, and also catches up with the WSU baseball players beginning their pro careers. Jared Prince and Matt Way are already off and running.
  • Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News weighs in with his thoughts on how the Pac-10 could realign its bowls to be a better lineup. It's realistic, which is depressing as crap -- the current lineup is so bad, it's going to take a lot of time to move to more favorable matchups.
  • And, lastly, the next in a long line of Tom Hansen farewell pieces -- this one from the LA Times.
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