UNC-Chapel Hill spent $83 million on athletics last year – or $104,464 per athlete at the university.
The university’s total spending on athletics was well above the median for the Atlantic Coast Conference, but well below the median of the Big Ten conference and UNC-CH’s peer universities, according to new data presented Wednesday to university trustees.
UNC-CH ranked in the lowest quarter of ACC schools on spending per athlete. The median was $128,576 for the ACC. UNC-CH fields 26 sports teams, with more athletes than most of its ACC competitors.
The statistics are part of a 125-page report to the UNC system, which now requires all of its campuses to be more transparent about the finances of intercollegiate athletics, relationships to booster clubs and academic performance of athletes. The more detailed reports were mandated this year, after the football and academic fraud scandals at UNC-CH.
Members of the UNC Board of Trustees asked few questions Wednesday.
The report included academic indicators that showed that athletes lag other students on some overall performance measures. For example:
• Among 163 first-year recruited athletes last year, four were exceptions to UNC minimum admissions requirements, and one athlete who was an exception to UNC’s minimum course requirements. The exceptions were in football, basketball, tennis and swimming/diving.
• In spring 2014, athletes had a 2.95 grade point average, compared with 3.2 for all undergraduates.
• Among the 2007 entering freshman class, six-year graduation rates were 90 percent for all students, but 73 percent for athletes.
Chancellor Carol Folt pointed out that the so-called Graduation Success Rate was 86 percent for athletes. That rate does not include those athletes who transferred or went pro, as long as they were in good academic standing when they left.
“I actually think it’s really interesting that the 86 percent is actually quite close to our students,” she said.
Provost Jim Dean, who presented the data to trustees, said the university examined 201 class sections that had more than 20 percent athletes enrolled during a regular term or more than 30 percent athletes during a summer term.
“First of all, you make sure the course meets every criterion you would have for a course – there’s syllabi, they’re in the classroom meeting, there are deliverables for the course – the kinds of things we didn’t have in the famous courses we had before,” Dean said.
He was referring to the no-show courses in the African and Afro-American Studies Department, where classes never met and only required a paper. Athletes were disproportionately enrolled in those classes.
Dean said the recent review of 201 classes found no irregularities. “We don’t think clustering is de facto evidence of anything wrong,” he said.
The university is awaiting the results of an independent investigation by Kenneth Wainstein, the former Justice Department official who is looking into the university’s academic fraud. That report is expected sometime this fall.
The UNC Board of Governors required more financial reporting on athletics at a time when academic budgets have been squeezed.
Dean said 90 percent of the university’s athletic costs are covered by ticket sales, donations, licensing and other revenues. Each student at the Chapel Hill campus paid an annual athletic fee of $279 last year, generating $7 million, or 8.8 percent of the athletics budget.
Dean and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham are leading a review of the student-athlete experience from recruitment to graduation. Their working group has met for months and could issue a report soon.
“I think the theme across the board is the same,” Dean told trustees. “We’re doing an awful lot of things to get better in this area, and we’re not resting.”
Cunningham said he wants to narrow the gap between students and student-athletes on graduation rates. N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest universities had smaller gaps between athletes and other students, according to 2012-13 data.
“Ultimately, I would love to get our federal graduation rate of the students and the student-athletes closer,” Cunningham said. “That’s our ambition. That’s our goal.”