LTTE: We cannot afford a new football stadium

Steven Shulman

steven
Steven Shulman

Everyone in the CSU community should be concerned about President Frank’s decision to build a new on-campus football stadium.

A new stadium is estimated to cost between $180 million and $225 million, but the actual total cost is likely to be much higher. The estimates do not include the additional spending that will be required for infrastructure upgrades, the relocation of adjacent streets and structures, the demolition of Hughes and the inevitable cost overruns.

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President Frank has repeatedly promised that this spending will not come out of the general fund, meaning that it will not take resources away from academic programs. Nonetheless, the two options for building a new stadium include up to $55 million from the general fund.

CSU already spends millions of dollars subsidizing football from the general fund and athletic fees. Increasing that subsidy moves us in exactly the wrong direction.

Then there is the risk that the revenues generated by a new stadium could easily be insufficient to pay down its debt. In that case, CSU students would find themselves on the hook for increased tuition and fees.

There is little or no evidence that a new football stadium will improve the performance of the team, attract out-of-state students, increase donations to academic programs or become financially self-sufficient. The claims to the contrary simply ignore the research by sports economists and other experts on these questions.

Nonetheless, CSU has already spent $6.5 million on the planning for the new stadium, an extraordinary amount before the ground has even been broken.

It is hard to believe that President Frank ever fairly considered the alternatives to building a new stadium if he was willing to condone preliminary spending of this magnitude.

Now, we face the prospect of the football coach earning up to $2.75 million for a single season.

Spending this much money on football is an outrage. Imagine what that amount of money could have done for CSU’s adjunct faculty.

In stark contrast to the wildly overpaid coach, adjunct faculty members create huge profits for the university. They teach most of the undergraduate student credit hours, generating most of CSU’s tuition revenue while getting paid abysmally little in return.

Football may be fun, but it is very, very expensive. Only a handful of top college football programs earn a profit. The large majority of college football programs have to be subsidized out of funds that would otherwise flow into teaching and research programs.

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Spending so much money on football sucks resources out of education and increases its cost. It diminishes every other sport and makes it impossible to achieve gender equity in college athletics.

The benefits that college football supposedly brings beyond mere entertainment – mainly stronger school spirit and more engagement with alumni – are laudable but hardly worth the cost, risk and harm to the University’s fundamental educational mission.

Like every public university, CSU faces a variety of daunting challenges rooted in its precarious financial situation.

State support has been sharply reduced. Tuition and student debt keep rising. Research funding is drying up. More and more courses are taught by poorly paid adjuncts. Faculty and staff salaries frequently fail to keep up with inflation. Students are stuffed into large lectures and often cannot get into the courses they need.

A new football stadium will only make it harder to solve these core problems. It is a vanity project justified by little more than wishful thinking.

No business would ever make a significant investment decision like this. Neither should we.

-Economics Professor at CSU Steven Shulman