Higher education

Harreld: University of Iowa athletics revenue sharing 'baked in for the long-term'

(File photo) Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz shakes hands with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld after th
(File photo) Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz shakes hands with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld after their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sep. 2, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — A new financial contribution that the University of Iowa Athletics Department made to support the wider UI mission in the 2017 and 2018 budget years presages a long-term commitment, UI President Bruce Harreld said Thursday.

The institution sees a continued revenue sharing that goes beyond the Athletics Department’s past contributions to the university’s bottom line that have included purchasing services like parking, police and health care.

“It’s going to be baked in for the long-term,” Harreld said in an interview after delivering a “state of the campus” speech to Iowa City’s Noon Rotary Club.

In his message, Harreld stressed the importance of creativity, collaboration and prioritizing funding of an institution like the UI so it can maintain academic excellence and achieve its strategic goals.

He said the UI’s five-year strategic plan, which has garnered support from the Board of Regents and lawmakers alike, requires an additional $155 to $165 million to implement. That money should come from several areas, he said, including campus cost savings and realignments.

The university plans to put $11.7 million a year in campus-based resources toward its strategic plan. But support also needs to come from the state, he said, which cut base funding for the regents’ universities more than $30 million in the previous and current budget years combined.

It also comes from students in the form of tuition, which Harreld has proposed increasing 7 percent every year for the next five years if lawmakers don’t come through with more money instead.

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But, Harreld stressed Thursday, if the money doesn’t come from the state and if regents don’t back sufficient tuition increases, then choices will have to be made.

“So then we have only one thing to do, which is to go back into our own activities and figure out what we’re not going to do in a world where we’re still not competitive in a number of key metrics,” he said.

With financial issues already pressing when Harreld was hired in 2015, he quickly jumped into the fray about how university athletic programs should financially support their main campuses — a discussion that has become more common nationally.

In August, UI Athletics Director Gary Barta announced his department was committing an additional $4 million in athletics revenue toward the UI general fund to be split between the 2017 and 2018 budget years. The department is self-sustaining and doesn’t rely on appropriations.

The additional resources, he said, would go toward student wellness, diversity and inclusion and overall student success. He noted athletics last year transferred more than $23 million to the central campus in payments for services.

UI athletics is expecting $117.1 million in income in the current year — up about 15 percent from the 2017 budget year that ended June 30.

Harreld said Thursday the giving will continue — regardless of yearly variations in athletics revenue. He said there is agreement over an “absolute amount” the department will contribute to the wider campus.

He didn’t disclose that amount, and UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett said no formal plan is in place. But Harreld added athletics will pick how it wants that money used.

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“If we tell them what philanthropy they’re going to support, then they don’t own it,” Harreld said. “So I’ve said, ‘Here’s the amount, now here is the list of things you might want to do.’”

That list includes campus security, student cultural houses and academic chairs.

“Every year, I suspect that what it goes to will change because they’ll have a new group of athletes and a new group of administrators, and they will own that,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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