Temple Athletics Could Lose Funding Under Tom Corbett's Regime

TJ CorbsCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2010

Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Tom Corbett promised to cut inefficient government spending.  That mission should start with Temple athletics.
Pennsylvania Governor-Elect Tom Corbett promised to cut inefficient government spending. That mission should start with Temple athletics.A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Temple University is a state-funded university.  The school receives almost $200 million per year from Pennsylvania taxpayers.  The school then turns around and spends over $10 million in the form of Direct Institutional Support towards athletics. 

For those who are uninformed, Direct Institutional Support is a fancy way of saying the school had to chip in for athletic expenses that revenue could not cover.  Temple uses over $10 million per year from Pennsylvania taxpayers to cover athletic department losses.  Much of this expense is from football.

Thomas Corbett was recently elected Governor of the state of Pennsylvania.  Part of Governor-Elect Corbett's platform included:

- Reducing the size and cost of  state government
- Consolidating state services to make state government more efficient
- Zero based/performance-based budgeting to make sure state agencies meet their  performance goals to determine their funding

I think we can all agree that one great way to reduce the cost of state government and reduce inefficient state expenditures would be to look at the wasteful, state-funded money pit that is Temple athletics.

Temple University has a fine basketball program.  Basketball is the only program at Temple that makes money.

Temple University has a pitiful football program.  Football is by far the biggest money pit at Temple University.

As Bleacher Report has reported in the past: Temple fan apathy is shockingly bad.  

Students, alumni and Philadelphia residents have shown that they do not care about Temple athletics.  Their basketball team drew 2,000 fans, total, to their last home game.  Temple failed to sell out their 10,000 seat arena for their game against top 10 Georgetown.  In a game against the Big East's Seton Hall, 20 percent of the arena was empty. 

Temple recently built a $73 million basketball arena.  And this poor attendance is how Temple community thanks the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.  Think of how many better ways $73 million could have been spent within the Pennsylvania state education system.

Temple football attendance is perhaps the biggest joke in the nation.  The only time Temple football is capable of drawing over 15,000 fans is when schools with larger local fan bases, such as Penn State or Villanova, come to town.

Temple is a school with 30,000 students and hundreds of thousands of alumni, and even more people affiliated with the school from employment.  Yet they can't put 10,000 fans in a basketball arena to watch their nationally ranked Temple Owls, and their football attendance is horrific.

So why is the state of Pennsylvania spending millions upon millions of dollars for something that the Temple community clearly does not care about?

Imagine what $10 million annually could do for some underfunded schools in economically depressed cities such as Scranton, PA.  Schools that are using history books printed before the first Desert Storm.

Temple University is, in essence, a public social program.  There is nothing wrong with such social programs.  This journalist is very much in favor of government social programs.

Much like homeless shelters, public transportation and soup kitchens, Temple University provides a service to those who otherwise would not have access.  Temple University provides thousands of Pennsylvania residents with a quality education at a bargain price, thanks to the state taxpayers.

But when did this social program go from providing necessary elements of education, to providing luxury items such as a money pit football team?  When did Section 8 housing start handing out stipends for houses in Society Hill?  When did SEPTA start providing limousine rides instead of bus passes?  When did the soup kitchen start serving caviar? 

When did a football program that nobody cares about and costs the taxpayers millions become a necessary part of Temple's mission as a state funded social program providing higher education?

Now one can say that athletics are an important part of a college experience.  Well, how much does Harvard spend on athletics?  The answer: under $3 million per year on basketball and football COMBINED.

Is Harvard cheating their students out of a complete college experience by not spending as much on athletics as Temple?  Harvard has the money to spend the money on athletics if they so desire, so their choice not to spend millions and millions on athletics might show that maybe spending taxpayer money on wasteful athletic programs, such as Temple, might not be necessary?

Other Pennsylvania schools, such as Penn State and Pittsburgh, receive state funding.  However, they earn enough revenue off sports to justify their expenses.  They also have passionate fan support which justifies them as a source of state pride.  Neither can be said about Temple.  Temple athletics generates no fan support, no state pride, and costs millions of dollars.

The Solution

Temple basketball is profitable.  Temple basketball should operate as is, and continue to be the pride of the university.  We can all only hope that one day the fans will start attending games.

The non-revenue sports (minus football) should be limited in their expenses.  Drop scholarships.  If these athletes want to participate in scholarship sports, they should go look to a university that is not costing the taxpayers millions in athletics. 

Sorry, but nowhere in the right to education does it state that swimmers and field hockey'ers must receive a free ride on the taxpayer's dime.

Drop football.  Temple currently has a lease with Lincoln Financial Field.  That lease is approximately $1 million per year, for the next seven years.  That is $7 million in sunk cost.  Temple football is costing the taxpayers close to that amount per year. 

Would you rather eat the $7 mill in sunk cost owed to Lincoln Financial Field, or would you rather continue to pour $5 to 8 million down the drain over the next seven years (upwards of $56 million)?  The choice is easy.  Perhaps Lincoln Financial Field (built with taxpayer money) will let Temple out of their contract at a discount, further reducing the financial burden that Temple represents to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

I would suggest that Temple drop down to non-scholarship FCS football, but that would not be practical.  Temple would have nowhere to play their games, and would ultimately be an unnecessary expense to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

Tom Corbett promised he would reduce inefficient government spending.  This journalist suggests he starts with Temple athletics.

TJ Corbs - tackling the hard hitting issues of the Northeast Corridor.


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