SF Chronicle/David “Corky” Downs
This spring, workers poured the concrete floors for a 142,000-square-foot, four-story Student Athlete High Performance Center that will house lockers for the UC football team and meeting rooms adjacent to seismically unstable Memorial Stadium. The project is being paid for with $135 million in bonds. Campus financial officials planned to pay off those bonds with donations. The university is confident the funding goals will be met, but if not, UC Berkeley's department of intercollegiate athletics could be responsible for paying off the center's bonds. There's a problem, though. The department has no money and last year it had to be loaned millions of dollars from campus general funds. Intercollegiate athletics is supposed to be self-supporting. But instead it is relying on the campus for millions of dollars of funding, and that comes at the expense of the financially beleaguered academic programs, said Brian Barsky, UC Berkeley computer science professor and a critic of university spending decisions. With the athletics department already heavily subsidized, Barsky doesn't see how it can pay off its staggering future debts. The university will have to bail out Athletics again, Barsky said.
"If it were happening in a normal time, it would be egregious, but given that this is happening in the context of record cuts to our academic program, it's unconscionable," Barsky said.