Schwartz: Ten Sentences – Financial Expectations Edition

July 28, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

A dogged higher-education reporter this week revealed some bad news for the Hawkeyes. A quick look around the sporting and cultural landscape suggests better news is not on the horizon. Let’s get to it with this weekend’s 10 Sentences:

1. If you live in Iowa and care about the University of Iowa, Iowa State, or Northern Iowa, then by now you either already know the value in reading everything written by the Cedar Rapids Gazette’s Vanessa Miller — the news organization’s higher-education reporter — or you should be reading her. (Full disclosure: I know her a little bit.)

2. This past week she wrote about Hawkeye football and basketball failing to make certain financial goals; UNI is in even worse shape, while ISU’s doing all right.

3. She also wrote this piece about UNI’s enrollment dipping to its lowest point in 43 years, and that got me thinking about this piece from a couple of months back that showed how college enrollment in the U.S. has decreased eight straight years, so it’s no wonder that colleges are having trouble meeting budget goals — especially when that’s coupled with state governments from states such as Iowa, Wisconsin, and Kansas that lie to their citizens about budget issues and, to make up for the alleged financial crises, slash education budgets.

4. And from there my mind made a beeline for a book written in 1967 called The Society of the Spectacle, by Guy Debord, which — please, stick with me for just a moment on this one — argues, among other things, that cultures (like the U.S.) that have the resources for basic human needs instead shift their foci to other things, like commodities (cool stuff), or into creating an appearance of having something instead of actually having it.

5. OK, let’s quickly bring this back around to these massive drops in college enrollment, which is one reason why there are budget shortfalls at Iowa’s higher-ed institutions, which invariably impacts programs such as University of Iowa athletics.

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6. Countries that don’t fall within Debord’s criteria, which can be called least developed countries or third-world countries — e.g. Cambodia, Uganda, and Bangladesh — don’t get to make the same decisions that Americans do, like suddenly decide, “You know what? I am WAY smarter than a doctor and have decided to not vaccinate my kids,” or, “Universities are just hubs for libtards and I can make a much better life if I invest in a Dominos franchise than courses in finance and philosophy.” 

7. The point is, what Vanessa Miller reported about UI Athletics missing its budget projections is just the beginning, because they are up against a cultural shift steered by the masses who, compared to the developing world, are so well off that they have forgotten that more education equals more income.

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8. And yes, this is a sports website focused on Hawkeye athletics, so let’s land this plane: the University of Iowa athletic department, guided by athletic director Gary Barta and whomever his eventual successor turns out to be, if current trends continue are going to find themselves in this position year after year after year — a situation in which they’ll continually have to build fancy new seating sections, continually have to lean on their Big Ten relationship for revenue distribution, and continually have to increase ticket prices to stay in the black.

9. It’s the same situation Wisconsin and many other schools find themselves in; America’s academic landscape ebbs and flows, and for numerous reasons many Americans currently are in a spot where they have decided that a college education is not for them — it’s the kind of question that people in developing countries don’t even know exists, because why would it? — and it has dire consequences for college athletic programs that seemingly need to build new facilities every 20 minutes to keep up with the Joneses.

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10. Hawkeye football and men’s basketball failed to meet the state’s financial expectations, which means we’re left crossing our fingers and hoping that the Big Ten has a good revenue year, but when your financial well-being is based 25 percent on effort and 75 percent on “Thank goodness we happened to have joined the right athletic conference in 1899,” that’s no strategy at all, and it’s not Barta’s fault or Kirk Ferentz’s or Fran McCaffery’s or anyone else’s — it’s just the moment we’re in.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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