The Big Ten's expansion into East Coast television markets by adding two additional universities could be a potential windfall for all 14 conference-member athletic departments.
Michigan State University should think about using revenue from the Big Ten payout to benefit the university's academic efforts.
While the conference's athletic directors point out that such a strong revenue stream will help keep tickets more affordable for fans and alumni, it's time for the MSU Board of Trustees to take a bolder look at that revenue.
It is not an unprecedented practice.
- In September, the Board of Supervisors at Louisiana State University voted to "transfer" $36 million from the athletic department to the university, with payments of $7.2 million per year for five years to be spent for academics, research or public service programs.
- At Ohio State University, the athletic department has been making annual $1 million payments to support the university library.
- And, as the Big Ten expansion was announced, Maryland President Wallace Loh pledged that some money from Maryland's Big Ten payments would "support our University-wide educational missions and help make college more affordable for our students."
The marriage of major research universities and successful college sports programs creates complex relationships. Athletics cannot replace the millions in revenue lost as state lawmakers have cut public universities to the bone. But athletic programs can and should contribute toward academic success.
MSU's Board of Trustees should begin a serious look at options for supporting academic scholarships or other academic efforts through revenue sharing with athletics.