Prioritization: Higher Education (De)funding Edition

Like many other people, sports fans and non-sports fans alike, I found it appalling that Grambling State University’s football program turned into a health hazard. It was disgusting to hear about the disturbing details from the lack of sanitary facilities to the omission of sports drinks in the football budget. Something like this sparks conversation on ESPN and other social media regarding whether or not Grambling State should keep its football program. What talking heads fail to realize is that the implications of this scandal go well beyond the football field. There are much larger issues involved here that are faced by universities across the country, ranging from the lack of funding for state universities these days to the allotment of funds of the college administrations.

In midst of all of the talk on the disgusting facilities at Grambling State, people still fail to realize why these facilities are shocking. Over the last few years, Grambling State suffered a 57 percent cut in funding, courtesy of the state government in Louisiana led by Governor Bobby Jindal. It is naïve to think that any institution can still be viable after experiencing cuts that deep. A shocking event like this must put faces to the budget cuts and make sure that both voters and politicians alike realize the real-life consequences for these extreme budget cuts. If this scandal does not result in people taking notice of such problems, I do not know what will.

At the same time, such drastic budget cuts mean that the universities need to re-evaluate how the little money they have is being spent. Is it necessary for administrators at reeling universities to receive salaries in excess of $200,000 or more or for a football program to exist if it fails to bring in revenue? The answer seems to be a straightforward no, but unfortunately administrators do not seem to agree or make the answer that simple. For an administration at Grambling (and in all due fairness, at many other universities) that offers perks such as taking an airplane to away games, even when its players are suffering on a seventeen hour bus ride, asking someone to give up a chunk of his or her salary will be a difficult task. For a football program with a history of producing great NFL players like Grambling State (which albeit mostly happened in the 1960s to 1980s) to shut down would also be an extremely difficult pill to swallow. While it would be the right thing for a struggling university with a lack of state funding to reduce administrative costs and shut down athletic programs, it takes courage and initiative to follow through on such actions.

Unfortunately, many administrators would lack such courage. After all, ESPN, administrators at Grambling, and sports fanatics (myself included) make this saga about a historic football program on the brink of extinction. In having such a narrow focus, people ignore that this problem is miniscule compared to ridiculous cuts faced by Grambling and other public universities across the country. The real implication of this scandal is that there are now faces, in the form of Grambling State players, to the effects of budget cuts at publically-funded universities across the country. If nothing else, those faces should hopefully wake up governors into giving adequate higher education funding and wake up college administrators into evaluating the importance of their own costly salaries and athletic programs.