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Golden Nuggets: An "Arms Race" In Athletics Spending?

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committee of eight professors and alumni released its final report on the future of finances for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Although the panel did not recommend specific cuts, it raised the possibility of trimming coaching staffs and rosters. The group also noted that Chancellor Robert Birgeneau could consider eliminating up to seven teams, but only as a last resort.

Birgeneau, who commissioned the report, is scheduled next month to announce how he plans to deal with a chronic athletics deficit that has forced the university to pump up to $14 million per year into the department's budget.

The department "has been playing by a very different set of budgetary rules from the rest of the campus," the panel wrote, adding that "unacceptable" accounting practices have made financial management nearly impossible. The campus lacks essential information about the department's spending decisions, the report said.

They also suggest that Birgeneau talk to other schools about cutting spending.  That hasn't been a historically successful tactic.

The panel also proposed that Birgeneau lead a national push to reform big-time college sports by urging schools to back away from high costs that have made the endeavor particularly difficult for some universities. UC Berkeley will not be able to cut spending without help from other schools, said Bob O'Donnell, an alumnus who served on the committee.

"If there's an arms race on, you don't want to just unilaterally disarm," he said.

Berkeley chancellors have tried unsuccessfully in the past to advocate for lower-cost athletics programs, warned an expert on college sports. Murray Sperber, a visiting professor of education at UC Berkeley, recalled that a former chancellor was "laughed off the stage" when he spoke at a national college-sports convention in the 1980s.

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