Linking scholarship cuts and coach's salary is flawed

May 16, 2011

Letter writer Don Fusting ( "Cuts for scholarships millions for basketball coach" letter May 13) seems to be confused. The cuts to the Maryland Distinguished Scholars program have nothing to do with salary of the new, or the recently retired, University of Maryland basketball coach. Maryland taxpayer dollars do not fund the salary of coaches at Maryland. Basketball and football are revenue sports, they pay their way and their profits are used to fund the other non-revenue sports at the university, such as soccer, lacrosse, tennis, golf, etc.

One of the reasons given for the recent football coaching change was the decline in that sport's revenue. The non-revenue sports rely heavily on the profits generated by basketball and football. As they say at Maryland, 27 sports, one team. Generous donations by boosters also serve to provide scholarships in many sports at Maryland. These donations allow the athletic department to use revenues to fund salaries, maintain and improve facilities and provide academic support to athletes.

As to the "dismal graduation rates," Mr. Fusting is in the dark about the great improvements to the graduation rate for men's basketball. Over the last four years, the graduation rate has been wonderful, with all seniors receiving their degrees. What Mr. Fusting, and many others, continue to believe about the graduation rates for men's basketball players is simply no longer true. Past numbers have also been distorted by players leaving school for professional basketball and by players transferring to other schools. The new athletic director, Kevin Anderson, has made a renewed commitment to academic support of all the university's athletes. A great use for the revenue generated by basketball and football.

Like it or not, college sports is a business. The success of the revenue sports is vital to maintaining all the sports at Maryland and a successful athletic program enhances the image of the university. As Wallace Loh, the new president of the university, is fond of saying, the university is like a house and athletics is the front porch, the public face of the school. That attractive front porch brings you in to a wonderful, successful university.

And incidentally, the recently retired coach, Gary Williams, is co-chair of the Maryland Great Expectations campaign to raise funds for academic scholarships. The campaign has so far raised 800 million of a 1 billion dollar goal. Mr. Loh credited Mr. Williams with raising $240 million of the to-date total. Not bad for a basketball coach!

M. Jackson, Pasadena

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