UO’s urban farm brings more students than Duck athletics

2/27/14: UO students say “sorry Ducks, we’re just not that into you.”

Update: While student attendance at basketball games is dropping (one report says the student section was about 40% full at the last basketball game) interest in the Urban Farm seems to be growing. Makensy Venneri has a timely story in the ODE, here. The 2011 ODE story on the decision to put an athlete-only parking lot on land that could have been used for the farm is here.

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Update: There’s an article about this post in the Oregonian here, many comments, some interesting.

2/24/2014: Last year UO spent about $105M on Duck athletics (audit report here), versus about $203M on CAS, LCB, Music, Law, AAA, COE, Journalism, and the Honor’s College combined. (Tuition revenue and state support was $428M, the $203M is what’s left over after building maintenance, administrative overhead, athletic subsidies, etc.)

Athletic Director Rob Mullens, his well paid hangers-on, and those admin junketeers like to claim big-time sports is a big draw for students. But according to the data, it ranks down there with our urban farm and recycling program:

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And these are the answers from students who came to UO. I wonder how many good ones got driven away by UO’s big-time sports hype? From a 2013 survey by UO’s sustainability program, here. Thanks to a vigilant reader for the link.

In addition, faculty, staff, and students all agree that winning games should be UO’s lowest priority. Unfortunately they didn’t break out the results for the administrators that set UO’s athletic subsidies, but their revealed preference choices are pretty obvious.

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7/22/2014 update: College students losing interest in football hype The WSJ has the story on falling student attendance, even when tickets are subsidized with mandatory student funds, as at UO. Let’s not even talk about basketball. Meanwhile all sections of UO’s popular Urban Farm course are already full for fall. Administrator demand for free bowl game junkets remains at historically high levels.

8/4/2014 update: “Urban Farming”. Oh, I get it now. The RG has the news, from the prestigious sounding Princeton Review.

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38 Responses to UO’s urban farm brings more students than Duck athletics

  1. Krantander says:

    I’m more troubled by the 91% of students who considered the school’s academic reputation and still decided to come here.

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  2. Hen says:

    A winning football team might draw students, if you mean by that increased student applications. Now, if the aim is to increase applications, I expect it would be cheaper and more effective for Oregon to legalize pot. Getting them to actually come to the University, well that’s another matter as UO matters points out.

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  3. Vlad says:

    Students become aware of oregon and perceptions of quality. In many different ways. it seems counter to any reasonable common sense to think that our visibility in a conference with the likes of ucla, cal, Stanford, Arizona, Washington, etc does not contribute to student awareness and perceptions of quality, or more importantly, perceptions of their parents paying thirty thousand or so in tuition for out of staters, we do surprisingly well on those perceptions, from my conversations with parents, Above cal states and in the bottom
    middle of the UCs. this, from someone who does think athletics consumes too much energy and resources from the academic side.

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  4. Green Acres says:

    Didn’t they rip out part of the Urban Farm to build the new athlete-only parking lot?

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  5. Charlie says:

    Your statement that Oregon “spent” ~ $100M on athletics vs. $200M on academics implies that if the “budget” went to $0 for athletics it would leave $300M for academics. The budget table you present, though, shows budgets are derived from revenue, meaning that the only way athletics could have such a large “budget” (and it would not be as large if discounted the same way the academic line items are) is if revenues support the budget, unless the money comes from general fund subsidy (which, when it does at all, it’s to a much lesser degree than on the academic side). As an economics professor, you should understand the difference between money being diverted from one side to another vs. money being spent on the same activity that generates it. Athletics has a big budget because it generates a lot of money, not because it’s taking money from academics.

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    • Old Grey Mare says:

      Athletics has a big budget because it generates a lot of money AND because it’s taking money from academics.

      I don’t think that that was the point of the comparison; the point was to illustrate values and priorities.

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    • uomatters says:

      Thanks for the comment. I added a few more budget links. You are correct that most Duck athletic revenue comes from sports (tickets and media deals through the PAC-12 mostly). They also get about $0.5M in state lottery funds, and by my best estimates about another $5M in hidden subsidies paid out of UO’s “general fund” which includes tuition and state support.

      But the biggest drain on the academic side is probably from fundraising. Many studies (including one done with UO donors, google Howard and Stinson) have shown that while athletic success increases donations to athletics, a non-trivial percentage of the increase is from donors giving less than they otherwise would have to academic side.

      FWIW, I’m not arguing for an end to big-time college sports at UO. Football brings in a lot more revenue than it costs, even ignoring the concussions that the unpaid players get!

      However, all of UO’s other sports lose money, and there are large savings to be had by cutting back their costs and perhaps dropping a few sports. This would be enough to eliminate the drag that athletics puts on the academic budget, and perhaps even free up some revenue for academic scholarships – which, at UO, have barely budged in recent years.

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      • Still no confidence says:

        Your idea of cutting the sports that don’t make money sounds an awful lot like the ‘centers of excellence’ type talk we’re seeing no?

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        • uomatters says:

          Ouch. You cut me to the quick. Gottfredson (or maybe he’ll bail and send Coltrane) will have to show up in the Senate and defend Baseball *and* Espy. Someone will then move for a vote of no confidence. Just a guess, of course.

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          • Anas Clypeata says:

            A no confidence vote in baseball? Our nation’s pastime? Oh dear. But tomorrow is opening day of spring training!

            “… But there is no joy in (Skinner’s) Mudhole—mighty Espy has struck out.”

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  6. Michael says:

    I graduated in 2008 and athletics played a very small role in my decision to attend UO. I went to high school in Southern California and graduated in the top 10% of my class at a solid public school.

    Location (on the West Coast), academic offerings, scholarship $, Eugene, and UO’s campus were the primary factors in my decision to attend UO.

    I will admit that I follow the athletic programs far more now than when I was a student.

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  7. Joe Bentham says:

    increased enrollment can directly be attributed to the success of the athletic department. How many Undergrads where there in 98? How many in 2014?

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    • wow says:

      And the increase enrollment at OSU must be because of their increased spending on athletics over the same time period,…..except that never happened. Its more about increased demand for education and the UC system sucking and failing to expand its non-flag ship campuses.

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    • OA Anon says:

      Uh, better sign up for a statistics class. HUGE difference between a correlation (duck success and increased enrollment both increased over the same time period), and a causation (A caused B). Perhaps sports increased our visibility as a national “player” on the field and off. But to say it was a driving force? The surveys belie that.

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    • chuck says:

      Yeah, but isn’t it true that uni enrollment has been going up all over the nation, whether the schools have a big time sports program or not? Why not ask if SOU/WOU/WWU or any of the UC’s,which don’t have athletic programs of note, are seeing increasing enrollments? Several of my classmates work at Cal States, nearly all of them got rid of their football programs years ago, mainly due to demographics, the bulk of students attending were nontraditional students, who could care less about football. Hasn’t hurt enrollment one bit….

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    • ScienceDuck says:

      It can be directly attributed, but that would wrong. Colorado has a similar increase in enrollment, especially in the valuable out-of-staters. Yet their football team has been excruciatingly bad.

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  8. Alexis says:

    How many students are going to say they went to school somewhere for sports when they are not on the team? In hindsight a big reason for my choice to go to UofO was because I grew up on Ducks athletics. When it came time to pick a school it was a no brainier. While it may not be the thing they think of immediately, without Ducks athletics being nationally televised on a regular basis a lot of these kids would have never heard about UofO.

    Just travel around the country and you will see Oregon O stickers on cars in almost every state. Those people are not putting stickers on their cars because they like the academic reputation of a school. It is to show support for sports teams. This is free marketing for the school.

    That being said, is sports not a part of the culture at the school? Are the athletic facilities not a part of the beauty of the campus? Steve Prefontaine put UofO on the map internationally, and sports are what is going to keep us there.

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    • wow says:

      It depends if we care absolute beauty or relative beauty. Yeah the Matthew Knight Arena is beautiful, but when other buildings are falling apart, and classrooms don’t work and there aren’t enough of them. Sorry to tell you, but big time sports is getting ready for a big time bust. I love the sports too, but parents don’t spend 30k a year so their kid can get season tickets. They expect a bit more than that.

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    • chuck says:

      Got to tell yass, that if you want students coming to your school based on what they see on ESPN, then don’t expect much academically. All one has to do is look at OECD data, which shows that USAAmericans are at the bottom of the list for math/science achievement, for the top 22 developed nations. And we’re second to the bottom in terms of literacy. Not much of a reason exists to have as many people in American unis, not if it’s based on academic achievement, and certainly true for U of Owe. So your thinking is that we have to market trivialities, such as how many times a team gets on tv, how well a school does in party ratings, crap such as that. Meanwhile, Oregon’s k-12 is falling apart, we have the second highest drop out rate in the nation, many of the kids in 4J/Bethel high schools cannot get a full academic day, primarily because they fired so many teachers, academic achievement continues to decline. But the admins solutions are to go out and get students from wherever they can, despite the fact that studies show that most USAAmericans have figured out what kind of terrible deal it is to pile massive amounts of debt, when college grads incomes aren’t increasing close to the rate of tuition increases, resulting in, guess what, enrollment declines. Yet, we get folks such as you thinking that sports is going to be the ting to keep the cash registers working. Good luck with your bigger fool business model…..

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  9. Rob Kistner says:

    Anyone who doesn’t think the U of O benefits dramatically from the high profile of U of O football, and the revenues it generates via ticket sales, TV revenues, sales of “branded” merchandise, contributions from sports boosters and alumni, sharing in their Bowl appearances revenues, enrichment of t.ye student campus experience, and the overall elevation of the UofO “brand” awareness nationwide – is living ‘head under the pillow’ with blinders on. Statistics like these mean nothing because their are way too many variables that are manipulated to make the stats serve the agenda of the statistician. I would love to see a survey conducted at U of O sports venues, campus and satellite Duck Stores, and ticket sales facilities, among students, alumni, and general supporters, asking this question: “should the U of O degrade or discontinue their sports programs — YES or NO”… Can you imagine what those statistical results might look like? Results of a survey depend completely on how it’s constructed and conducted. Like I already wrote, statistics are “skewed” based upon the agenda and intentions of those who created the survey. The above statistics wreak of biase, manipulation, and overall bullshit…!

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    • wow says:

      For the question isn’t about degrading. Its about prioritizing. And right now athletics has been given priority over academics in fund raising, in influence at the UO foundation. This has limited UO’s ability to build classrooms, further research and its mission as an institution of higher learning.

      If you are going to call the statistics biased, explain the bias? Bottom line you sound like someone who loves their quasi-professional sports and benefits from the fact that its subsidized by tax and tuition payers, in a rigged system that forces near professional athletes to work for free. I love the student athletes. I just wish they got proper rewards for their work and risks rather than gifts in kind.

      Instead of the yes or no question, the students were asked what should be the priority, and athletics isn’t it, and we should keep that in mind in the upcoming capital campaign.

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    • ScienceDuck says:

      How about a poll that asks, “Should the University of Oregon use funds to subsidize the athletic program instead of using the funds to reduce tuition — YES or NO”. Can you imagine what those results would look like?

      Or how about, “Can you think of large non-profit organization where the CEO (i.e. coach) makes between 5% and 30% of total revenue? — YES or NO?”

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    • chuck says:

      Hey, I got a YES/NO survey for yass. Hows about we ask students if they would be willing to have no vote whether they pay more tuition to fund athletic programs? Oh wait, that’s been happening around the country, no need for survey. University of New Mexico student body voted down a tuition increase in order to fund athletics, but their Pres told them to go screw themselves, and instituted in anyway. University of Montanan students were so infuriated with a unilateral fee increase to fund sports that they got off their asses and protested until the fee was rescinded. Colorado State students are saying hell no to a $250 million buildout of their football stadium, admins are attempting to ram in down their collective throats anyway. No need for a survey, when students are given a chance to vote whether they want more of their tuition going for athletics, they say no. And if you want some more evidence of the athletic fatigue, I would suggest you do some research on the ‘empty stadium’ syndrome. At unis which have huge football programs, such as Bama, greater number of students simply aren’t making the walk across campus for games. Kinda of what’s going on with Knight Arena…..

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      • uomatters says:

        Hey, can you send some links to news reports on these episodes? I’ve heard of some but not all. Thanks, UO M.

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  10. Kristina Granby says:

    These are interesting survey results. I know that when I was a student at UO, I was not particularly interested in the athletic programs. I attended a football game here and there, but I would have responded the same way many of these students did.

    However, after graduating (twice – B.A., M.Ed.) from the U of O, my interest in athletics became much higher. Perhaps it is because that is one of the primary ways alumni are able to stay attached to their schools, even when living far away. I am now a very invested Duck athletics fan. But I do still believe that academics should receive the bulk of the attention AND the money.

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    • flyonawall says:

      Good points and I’m glad you had a great experience here. I think problem is with how the foundation is run, that money is that alumni who got off to great careers stay connect through athletics, but then when the UO foundation calls, due the presence of sports busters running the organization, they ask about athletics first and academics second.

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  11. duck and cover says:

    Mr. Kistner, I suggest you use a spellchecker whilst flaming.

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  12. Mac Ehlen says:

    Seriously Bill? This survey has no methods section. And, I went back and found the email from the office of sustainability. It offered the opportunity to win a gift card in response for answering the questions…in what way can any conclusions be drawn from this?

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    • flyonawall says:

      Lets conduct a census of the students, staff and faculty.
      I bet emphasis on beauty and sustaintabilty go down even further, and caring about academic reputation and ability to find a job go up.

      Athletics, while fun, stays in last place.

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    • BA in throwing? says:

      You went to a football school, though, Mac. I can’t take you seriously without some corroborating evidence.

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  13. anonymous says:

    Given that OSU enrollment has sped past UO enrollment during the era of greatest Ducks success, I must conclude that UO athletics is driving students to Corvallis. An argument for refusing athletic donations past the point where they turn off potential students.

    By the way, Bill, a heartwarming comment about your class in the comments underneath that Oregonian article. You should read it if you haven’t already — you’ll love it!

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    • bernie's bookie says:

      I meant to identify myself above — hope this helps!

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  14. chuck says:

    Have any of you sport apologists asked what the hell is going to happen if the athletic program starts to lose? All those putatively amazing things that happen due to athletics can only be achieved with winning, and cheating, and more money being allocated towards sports. For you guys, it seems that unis have become nothing more than young adult theme parks, with a minor league sports franchise attached. Why stop there, why not market all of the bars and breweries within walking distance of the campus? If this is your thinking, then the expectations of students/alumni will not be towards academic rigor or excellence, they won’t care if a poorly paid adjunct/temp is in the classroom, they won’t care if library budgets get cut, they won’t care if departments close. All they will expect is high achieving sports programs, and the admins will be more than happy to supply that bullshit….

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    • Anonymous says:

      I have no idea, but Oregon is not going to win a national title in football this season and might not win more than 5 games in men’s basketball, so we can catch an early glimpse.

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      • Betting on the Ducks says:

        ESPN’s pre-season rankings have Ducks at #2. Let the gridiron debates begin!

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