The Other Lesson from the University of Missouri

For years college presidents cut a Faustian bargain with their football programs.  The University would shield athletes from having to take any actual classes and shower the program with money meant for academics in return for the football program raising the visibility and prestige of the university and at least nominally pretending that academics come first.  For years Presidents consoled themselves that they still held the whip hand in the relationship, even when it was increasingly clear they did not (e.g. at Penn State).  This week, it was proved for all the world  who is in charge.  University Presidents can keep their jobs only so long as the football players are kept happy.


  1. Tom Lindmark:

    Perhaps the best comment on this was the tweet I read this morning. Can't find it exactly but basically the lady said that she suspected that the President and Chancellor of the university simply decided they had enough of this s**t and decided to collect their retirements. Can't say I would blame them if that was their position.

  2. mlhouse:

    These activities have nothing to do with racism. Instead, they are exercises in power. The radicals sense that they have the upper hand and are using the tools at their disposal to force out administrators not to their liking and replacing them with puppets to their ridiculous agenda. Why the taxpayers and parents who foot the bills for these institutions will stand for this is beyond me.

  3. Ike Pigott:

    Conversely, you have the Alabama model, where the increased profile of the athletic department has raised academics and standards. It doesn't have to be antagonistic.

  4. MJ:

    I'm sure they were fed up, but I kind of doubt that they would just walk away. I'm thinking this is more along the lines of "look, we'll give you the opportunity to resign and you can keep your generous compensation package or we can force you out in a much less flattering manner."

  5. Matthew Teague:

    Rather quick change to the reputation of this football team...

  6. kidmugsy:

    It's not the first time that Mamluks have taken over a joint.

  7. DaveK:

    It remains to be seen how the Alum/Donor class reacts to these antics. My suspicion is that the endowments are going to get quite a bit thinner. Of course, the downside of that is that the schools become ever more dependent on Federal funding and all the strings (epecially requirements for additional administrators) that go with that.

  8. stan:

    "shower the program with money meant for academics" -- simply false.

    Facts matter. Try some.

  9. Thane_Eichenauer:

    I presume the reason is that the psrents agree and the taxpayers are either busy breaking rocks and paying taxes or that they are no longer in charge.

  10. marque2:

    Not sure if that is the case. Missouri's football program is a money loser. If the heads of the school were more astute, they would have used this as a great opportunity to shut the thing down.

    The bigger question is why the university allowed people to get fired for what is now obviously a series of hoaxes. No photos, no evidence of any of it. And mysteriously the folks with the most to benefit by being harassed were the ones harassed, what a coincidence!

  11. morganovich:


    he should have called their bluff.

    "remember those scholarships you used to have...?"

  12. morganovich:


    i have seen the same stuff on this being a hoax. there is apparently not a single photo of the alleged poop swastika. that alone makes this look like a hoax. i mean, find me any object on a college campus of which there are not 100 photos. to my knowledge, there is not even anyone who is, by name, claiming to have seen it first hand. this all started with some flyers that (mysteriously) had no pictures.

    this smells like complete BS. these kids take pictures of their dinners. it seems highly implausible that no one took a photo of something as dramatic as a swastika of feces.

    regarding the money, it may be a bit more complex. the costs are largely sunk costs. the program may lose money, but it will lose more if it does not sell tickets for the next 5 games. it's not like they get a break on the stadium costs etc if they do not use it. i suspect the games do throw off a fair bit of money, just not enough to cover all the sunk costs.

    they would lose far more from missing games.

    he still should have called their bet though and yanked their scholarships.

  13. morganovich:


    perhaps you might take your own advice. i see absolutely no facts provided in your claims about the falsehood of coyote's comments.

    is this some form of self parody? you demand facts by making an unsupported assertion?

  14. marque2:

    Yes, I can see your point about the football, I think, esp mid season it could cost more. Teams usually have to commit for two years of games - so the soonest they could truly exit would be 2017. Still your idea (and what I was thinking) of saying, no play no scholarship, and especially for the coach, miss the game, miss your job. Coaches have been fired for less. (e.g. USC this year fired the coach for allegedly showing up to practice inebriated. )

  15. marque2:

    I do find comments like that are typically from people resentful of athletes. The comment is an opinion, not a truth as well. Who is to say what money should be allocated for book learning vs athletic learning?

    Just what learning should universities supply? Isn't a university suppose to help you study to be your best in a field where you may already have some aptitude? Think of your kids ( or kids in general, since I am not sure if you have any) For myself, just as I pay money for my daughter's bookwise education, I also pay money for my daughters to learn and enhance their skills in sports, and their physical education. I think it is important to teach people to be able to catch a ball, swing a bat, learn a dance step ...

  16. SamWah:

    Not to mention that swastikas mean nothing to blacks and a LOT to Jews (who seem to be completely not part of the problem/situation there).

  17. SamWah:

    I can see state funding going down, and students there applying elsewhere for next semester.

  18. David in Michigan:

    Hmmmm. I have always believed that for MAJOR colleges/universities both football and basketball are huge money making operations. Now you're saying they are not. I have no real (i.e., non anecdotal) facts to support my position. I just assumed that stadium revenues, television revenues, sponsor (Nike, etc) revenues and alumni contributions made these sports big money winners. For example, it has been alleged that if the Uof Missouri failed to play their next game, the University was on the hook for 1 million dollar penalty under some contract clause.

    What facts do you have to support your position??

  19. marque2:

    Definitely - and also you would think, at least the cleaning staff person would come forward and say, yeah, I was the one who had to clean that mess up.

    And now we find the Student body President, who is black and an extreme activisty is the one who was called n names by some random folks in a car on campus - how coincidental and convenient. He also falsely told folks on campus that the KKK had invaded according to the police and the FBI, which turned out to be a lie - I wonder about the former comment even more now.

    Then there is the black hunger striker who apparently has been at the school 8 years trying to get a Master's degree (usually a Master's takes 5 - 6 years including the BA) and is upset over provisions in Obamacare which forced the university to stop paying healthcare. We find out his African American parents are being repressed by Union Pacific to the tune of 6 million dollars a year. I wish I were suppressed with 1/10 that. (In case you don't get the humor - His parents earn at least 6 million a year, while the child is claiming racist suppression)

  20. MB:

    Having worked at a university with a nationally known football team, I can confirm that not only does football (and men's basketball) pay for itself, it also makes enough extra money to pay for the rest of the less popular sports as well as kick back a portion to the academic side. The entire athletic department is a profit center, and is pretty much completely separate from the academic side. Which is one reason why the coach of Mizzou has no qualms with taking sides against the president of the university (nominally, his boss). His real boss is the athletic director, who has as much (if not more) sway with the board as the president.

  21. MB:

    I'll help out:
    > ...shower the [football] program with money meant for academics...
    FACT: Missouri's athletic department contributed over $2 million *to* the university in 2014[1].

    > ...shield athletes from having to take any actual classes...
    FACT: There's no separate degree track for athletes[2]. NCAA eligibility rules require minimum coursework and GPA[3] to remain eligible.

    > Presidents consoled themselves that they still held the whip hand in the relationship, even when it was increasingly clear they did not (e.g. at Penn State)
    FACT: That's been clear for quite a while; Wikipedia's Athletic Director page mentions "supervision [by the college president or chancellor] was often token" since 2004[5].

    > University Presidents can keep their jobs only so long as the football players are kept happy.
    FACT: More than "the football players" were unhappy. The football coach[6] and AD[7], expressed their support. There was national media attention of the hunger strike[8], growing social media support[9][10], the support of the governor of Missouri for the resignation[11], protests by thousands of students and nine deans supporting resignation of the chancellor[12].

    I think that should do....


  22. MB:

    Reports are that the President voluntarily resigned, with no severance. The Chancellor was forced to a "lesser role", though seems this is just the latest in a series of conflicts he's had with the board.

  23. MJ:

    A couple of points from the KC Star article you linked to.

    First, it mentioned that Missouri was one of only 20 athletic departments of FBS subdivision football schools who reported revenues greater than expenses in the most recent year (2014).

    Second, the $2 million transfer from the Department appears to have been a one-time transfer conditional upon the Department running a surplus. It's probably also worth mentioning that this was a year in which MU's football team won the SEC East division and went on to play in the Citrus Bowl, a Jan. 1 bowl game with a reasonably large payout.

    Third, the author notes that during this year the Department's debt load increased by $60 million for renovations to the football stadium and other facility improvements. This is indicative of the broader trend in college sports, particularly major revenue sports (e.g. football, basketball), where schools participate in an arms race for facilities (new areans/stadia, practice facilities, etc.) that ends up eating up much of any increases in revenue from TV contracts, merchandising rights and other ancillary sources. This is on top of escalating coaches' salaries (which often dwarf the compensation of the University's own top administrators), demands for revenue sharing with non-revenue sports and various Title IX obligations, and now demands for increased compensation for student-athletes beyond their current scholarship support.

    In short, I doubt that university athletic departments transferring funds to a university's general fund is either regular practice or widespread among college athletic programs. Moreover, the opportunities to do so will be limited in the future due to rapidly rising costs and demands from athletes for a greater share of any proceeds that do emerge.

  24. MB:

    I didn't mean to imply that Missouri was raking it in on the backs of their football team; more like they're pretty much a non-profit (which I know some universities actually organize their athletic departments as a separate non-profit) which contradicts the original quote that they are "showered with money meant for academics".

    > ...Missouri was one of only 20 athletic departments of FBS subdivision football schools who reported revenues greater than expenses in the most recent year

    Comparing Savannah State from the Middle Eastern Athletic Conference to a nationally known football team like Alabama from the Southeastern Conference isn't going to tell you much. Missouri is in the SEC, and while they may not be quite the name brand of Alabama or LSU yet - you should really look at their peers. For 2014, Auburn was the only SEC athletic department to run a deficit - and that appears to be an unusual occurrence for them too.

    Missouri athletics have run a surplus more often than not; the only serious deficit in the last 10 years seems to have occurred when they switched from the Big 12 to SEC. The article indicates this was structured as a loan, to be repaid in 2016 as the SEC revenues kick in. Considering MU has around a billion dollar budget, a few million here and there isn't exactly showering money in either direction.

    Yes - the football powerhouses are unique snowflakes in the NCAA, but considering this is an article about Missouri and the political power of it's football team - it seems appropriate to frame the conversation around popular football universities which operate at a different level than Middle Tennessee State. At these large universities, a fair characterization would be that the football team does hold significant political capital, but that they are not showered with money from the academic side.

  25. marque2:

    Nope, anyone can report something to the police.not only aren't there photos from the police or otherwise, they can't even find the janitor who cleaned up the mess.

    It is quite the mystery.

  26. MB:

    Evidently, not anyone can click a link and read...the police report is written in the first person. In recent news, some photos have surfaced.