“Just a couple of days ago the Kangaroos were saddled with a five-game losing streak,” reads the hopeful lead in the Kansas City Star about the men’s basketball team at UMKC. “Now they are riding a two-game winning streak, just their second of the the season.”

There is no faulting the sportswriter here for sticking to sports–an increasingly rare virtue–but for the editorialists there is a larger story buried in that headline.

An opening might read something like this: “In the face of severe budget cuts, UMKC persists in wasting some $12 million a year on a misbegotten Division I athletic program whose flagship team celebrates a two game-win streak against a school no one ever heard of.”

UMKC and other state universities are paying the price for the grossly mishandled student protests at the University of Missouri, Columbia, campus in the fall of 2015. Not only did MU brass alienate potential students with their fecklessness, but they also alienated citizens and their state legislators.

As a result, at the beginning of this school year, UMKC had to freeze hiring and look for places to pare down its budget by $24 million over the next two years.

For a variety of reasons, however, none of them sensible, the budget cutters have left the sacred kangaroo of Division I sports largely untouched.

The feckless administration response to the MU student protests has pulled down the whole MU system.

Some 27 years ago one could at least see the logic in going Division I. Other urban universities in mid-sized cities like Cincinnati, Syracuse, and even Wichita had winning teams that unified the student body and whose very names brought glory to the city that hosted them.

Going Division I, however, came at a price. To host a Division I basketball program a university also had to host 13 other sports Division I programs. More problematic still, despite the fact that women are less inclined to pursue sports at a college level, at least seven of those teams had to be for women.

UMKC currently supports 16 Division I teams, seven for men, nine for women, in a program that drains roughly $12 million from UMKC’s core budget. Worse, to fill several of these rosters, coaches feel compelled to recruit from overseas.

If the teams won or if the students cared, there might be some justification for the Division I program, but for the most part the teams don’t win, and the students don’t care.

The centerpiece of the program, men’s basketball, has never taken off. In 27 years, the team has not once even made the 64-plus field of NCAA tournament, and it is not about to happen in a season where two straight wins are cause for a campus celebration.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. “For a variety of reasons, however, none of them sensible, the budget cutters have left the sacred kangaroo of Division I sports largely untouched.” This is incorrect, the UMKC athletics budget has been cut by $1.3 million for 17-18 (According to the KC Star per June 2017 article about the cuts to the MO Rep Theater . For a $12 million a year budget that is roughly 10.8%.

    “UMKC had to freeze hiring and look for places to pare down its budget by $24 million over the next two years.” According to the 15-16 budget, the total expenditures for UMKC is roughly $364.7 million. I can not tell by the way the article is written if the $24 milliion cut from the budget is for each year or if the $24 million is in total for the the two years. If I am generous the total UMKC budget cut is for each year and is $6.6% of the budget. If I am to take the author by their words, the UMKC budget cut is only 3.3% of the budget.

    Either way, the author is incorrect, either by ignorance or by intent (which by the way we have seen plenty of from all sides of media, haven’t we?).

    UMKC basketball must play roughly 4 “money” games per year to help with the athletic budget. If they were allowed to play teams far below their peer level like KU and MU do, UMKC’s records could be improved by 4 wins each year. That would make last years team 22-13. Not a bad record if you are not KU.

    It seems the Sentinel wants to hold UMKC basketball to KU basketball standards, without UMKC having the funding of a Big 12 program.

    The would be similar to comparing the Sentinel to the Washington Post and New York Times for the quality of newspaper.