Don't Kill The Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

KU students messed with the bull, got the horns, and shame on the bull

06/09/2014 10:23 AM

The Kansas athletic department should be embarrassed, but you know it is not.

The people who work there should see what they’ve done for what it is (petty revenge on students) instead of what they wish it to be (a way to make up “lost” revenue).

The people who work there should be more self-aware than to think that adults who work for a corporation that brought in $93 million in the 2013 fiscal year can react to a 0.3 percent loss of revenue by directly hitting back against tuition-paying students without it being seen by level-headed folks as a form of revenge.

Earlier this year, you may have known, KU’s Student Senate voted to remove a student fee that provided about $1.1 million to the athletic department. The chancellor later overruled the decision, but compromised with a plan that will cut the subsidy to the athletic department by $350,000.

The athletic department’s response is to cut out 120 of the best student seats in Allen Fieldhouse, replacing them with donor$. Sure looks like revenge, right?

“It’s not revenge,” KU associate AD Jim Marchiony said. “It’s trying to make up lost revenue.”

If you’re going to defend the indefensible, that’s probably as good as anything else, but Marchiony is essentially playing the role of principal Richard Vernon here:

There are so many holes in the company-line logic from Marchiony, starting with the fact that — even if we accept the premise that an athletic department that pays its basketball coach about $5 million per season and has cost itself another few million in recent years by firing its football coaches should tax non-athletes — with record payouts from the Big 12 and other sources KU’s revenues have never been higher and will climb next year by far more than $350,000.

Modern college sports are run by a gotta-spend-money-to-make-money culture, but an athletic department with enough resources to spend $20 million to house the original rules of basketball and another $17 million for an apartment complex for the basketball team should be able to absorb $350,000 in a time of record revenues.

Now, Marchiony and his colleagues will talk about this only being 120 seats out of 4,000 for basketball games, and that no students will be left out of the building because of this decision. It’s also true that every athletic department in the Big 12 operates with a student subsidy, most of them bigger than KU’s.

And nobody inside the athletic department will say this publicly, but the rotten football program makes everything more difficult. Essentially, Charlie Weis’ “pile of crap” isn’t producing enough revenue so the rest of the athletic department works at a disadvantage.

Still, this $350,000 “loss” isn’t really a loss at all, since it’s more than made up for with increasing television payouts (which is why the Student Senate made the move in the first place).

This is a symbolic show of power, no matter the company spin, a multi-million dollar corporation taking a surgical and purposeful push back against tuition-paying students. This is petty revenge, the older sibling who should know better justifying a slap across the face with, “he started it.”

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to smellinger@kcstar.com or follow twitter.com/mellinger.

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