"How many sport video analysts do you really need?" said John Dunn, president of Western Michigan University, who gave a talk Tuesday at a preliminary portion of the meeting on rising inequality in college athletics. "How many assistants for a coach — not assistant coaches, (but) assistant office personnel, to keep his life straight?"
"While the NCAA wants to avoid being overly intrusive, they have never had a problem saying there should be x number of coaches and x number of scholarships awarded," he said. "Why not also govern how many ancillary personnel you can have?"
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said in a brief emailed statement that colleges make their own spending decisions and "are reluctant to cede authority over their budgets to the NCAA." SEC spokesman Craig Pinkerton said he would have to refer questions to Commissioner Mike Slive, who wasn't available for comment.
The conceit of the study — comparing per capita spending on athletes versus academic spending — carries some caveats. Universities already "spend" widely varying amounts on different types of students; those in majors requiring special equipment, or offering small classes, already benefit from more spending, as might those signing up for extra-curriculars or special tutoring. Knight Commission Executive Director Amy Perko said her group realizes at many institutions athletic spending per athlete will inevitably be higher than academic spending per student.
Also, "academic spending" can be a confusing category, though the study uses federal data universities must report under a precise methodology. While it includes athletic scholarships as athletic spending, for example, institutional financial aid available to other students doesn't count as "academic spending."
Still, the size of the ratios — and the fact that six conferences have broken six figures, up from four a year before — are eye-catching data points showing the extent to which Division I college athletics programs have come to inhabit separate financial universes from the academic institutions whose names they share.