Goerke to review sports program viability

Administrators to define UH

athletic stance; deficit an issue

by Betsy McArthur

Daily Cougar Staff

For the University of Houston's football program and other athletic programs, the never-ending game for administrative and budgetary support could be over soon.

Addressing the monthly meeting of the Faculty Senate, Interim President Glenn A. Goerke said he will be meeting with Interim Chancellor William P. Hobby Friday morning to discuss a variety of issues, including the continued viability of certain intercollegiate programs, namely UH football.

UH football operates at a deficit despite ticket sales, television royalties and league assistance it receives to fund its vast needs.

"We are taking a hard look at athletics now," said Goerke during a lackluster question-and-answer period before more than 70 Faculty Senate members. "I've dealt with the issue of athletics (before). I think we have a good handle on where we are: There is a deficit."

Goerke said the problem with

the ongoing feud between athletic and academic funding is not a matter of expenditures or budget size. Specifically, he called the current football program, in comparison to other programs at similar universities, "pretty bare bones."

"The problem is on the revenue side. I don't believe in or want funding to come out of the campus. We need to increase ticket sales, television money and league support. Those things are going to have to come together . If they don't happen, we'll have to re-evaluate and make decisions, serious decisions," he said.

Goerke did not discuss the specifics of his scheduled meeting with Hobby, saying only that that they wanted "to come to an agreement on where we go in intercollegiate athletics."

Goerke did say that any decisions would be relevant to the 1997-98 seasons.

Sources close to the issue say that Hobby is known for his scrutiny of intercollegiate programs. As chancellor for Rice University, he reportedly supported discarding its intercollegiate football program to deal with budget problems.

Rice still maintains a football team.

Part of the problem, according to Goerke, is that intercollegiate sports are big business -- a fact that Goerke said may hurt not only UH's program, but other teams as well. "Ultimately, I think it will shake out to only 60 or so schools that can afford to compete and make money."

Some members of the Faculty Senate were less than impressed. Many feel they have heard the verse about reviewing intercollegiate athletics in the budget song too many times before, without action.

Robert Palmer, Cullen professor of history and law, is one such cautious observer. While he believes that major changes will occur at some time in UH's future, he fears that they won't be soon enough. He says a majority, but not all, of Faculty Senate members support athletics cuts in the wake of dwindling academic funding.

"These are the kinds of things Goerke has been saying about athletics. (Former President James) Pickering made similar statements. The Senate would be very happy if we could see the results on these statements, and I think we'd appreciate them faster," said Palmer.

However, Palmer believes Goerke is closer to making a decision regarding athletics than his predecessors have been. "Goerke is more serious, but we've heard it all


Also discussed at the meeting was the issue of the negative image of UH versus other universities. Goerke believes there is some serious work to be done to counteract current perceptions. "We have some healing to do," he said.

Suggestions from Goerke on getting legislators and community leaders involved included bringing them on campus to "show it off ... I am constantly amazed at the wonders of this campus. Who knows about it?"

Also addressed in the question-and-answer portion of Goerke's appearance was the controversy surrounding recent renovations to the Ezekiel Cullen Building.

Goerke has no qualms about his decision to go ahead with the administration building's new look. "I had to make a decision," he said. "I don't think it's good having a provost and a president not immediate to one another. I wanted people to come into new offices. The lighting in the building was abominable. We got people reorganized so they could be more efficient.

"It may have been a mistake, but if I had to do it all over again, would I? Yes, yes; we couldn't wait."

Visit The Daily Cougar