Until now nobody has wanted to talk publicly about it, but college athletics are in serious financial straits. For several years the principal subject at virtually every meeting of athletic directors has been the inflation of costs, much of which relates to football. Though football itself is not losing money, it is no longer turning over the necessary profits that enable major-college sports programs to operate on their required breakeven basis.
The budget statistics are frightening. In the Big Ten six schools reportedly are operating at a loss. At Michigan the intercollegiate athletic budget has risen from $1.5 million to $2.2 million in just two years. At Kansas the budget is up from $850,000 four years ago to $1.4 million today.
Last Monday the Big Ten met in Chicago to consider what might be done. There are no easy solutions, for college football's income is probably close to its maximum. "We could play an 11-game schedule," says Fritz Crisler, Michigan's athletic director, "but this would be out of step with the general educational philosophy of the schools, for it would require games when students are not yet at school. Ticket prices might be raised and money to run athletics might be requested from other university funds, but neither of these moves is desirable."
Some conferences are considering the abolition of all athletic scholarships except in football and basketball, which are the income-producing sports. If a further step is needed, all minor college sports might have to be put on a club basis and left to fend for themselves.
To help with the problem the NCAA might make freshmen eligible for varsity football and basketball competition, thus getting an extra year of use out of the subsidized athlete.
The solution that almost everybody is attempting to avoid is the painful but obvious one: slashing of college football costs by going back to one-platoon football, cutting the size of coaching staffs and decreasing the number of scholarships, taking the plush out of the athletic dorms and the steaks off the training tables. It sounds like heresy, but in lean times it also sounds like common sense.
Rarely has a help-wanted ad been bigger or attracted more attention. In a 9-by-14-inch display in The New York Times, the country of Tanzania announced it was looking for a man between 35 and 40 "longing to do something worthwhile with his life" to serve as assistant to the director of its national parks. Applicants were advised to have proven administrative ability in a business, academic, financial, legal or governmental career, a sophisticated, friendly and mature personality, a genuinely liberal outlook, some independent means because the salary is modest, and the ability to fly—or learn to fly—a light plane. "This job is not for an escapist," says John Owen, Tanzania's Director of National Parks and the man who needs the assistance.
The ad drew 60 applications in the first three days after it appeared, as well as a New York Times editorial applauding Conservationist Owen and the Tanzania government for its own efforts to do "something worthwhile."