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Taxpayers, Students Still Paying for Majority of SDSU, USD Sport Costs, Not Seeing Increased Enrollment

Our public university leaders and boosters try to justify their outlandish spending on sports by saying they’ll get alumni and corporate donors to pick up the tab and that all the money they sink into stadiums, arenas, coaches, and jock scholarships will translate into increased brand awareness and enrollment. But at South Dakota’s two Division I campuses, taxpayers and students are still picking up most of the sports tab and enrollment is declining.

Sports fan Stu Whitney points us toward the Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, which reports that in Academic Year 2021, South Dakota State University got 44% of the $20 million it spent on athletics from taxpayers and another 15% from student fees, while the University of South Dakota tapped taxpayers for 57% of its $18.94 million sports budget and students for another 15%.

South Dakota State University sources of athletic revenue, AY 2021, Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, retrieved 2023.03.20.
South Dakota State University sources of athletic revenue, AY 2021, Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, retrieved 2023.03.20.
University of South Dakota sources of athletic revenue, AY 2021, Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, retrieved 2023.03.20.
University of South Dakota sources of athletic revenue, AY 2021, Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database, retrieved 2023.03.20.

SDSU has been trying to get more private donations and corporate sponsors to pay for its D-I sports. Measured in current dollars, from 2012 to 2021, donations and corporate sponsorships increased over 92%, while athletic costs to taxpayers and students combined rose over 47%. But SDSU’s athletic spending increased nearly 42% over that decade while its spending on academics increased just under 10%. At USD over the same period, donations for sports are up over 112%, corporate sponsorships are up over 65%, and student/taxpayer costs are up over 107%. From 2012 to 2021, USD increased sports spending by over 82% while increasing academic spending over 21%.

Whitney reports that all those tax dollars, student fees, private donations, and corporate sponsorships are not producing the primary goal of any higher-education marketing campaign, more students helping lower tuition:

On the athletics side, increased funding to meet Division I demands has not produced higher enrollment. In fact, SDSU’s undergraduate enrollment dropped 10.7% from 2012 to 2023, while USD’s dipped 4.6%. Tuition more than doubled at both schools during that span from $114.30 a credit hour to $256.55, a spike of nearly 125% [Stu Whitney, “SDSU, USD Rely Heavily on State Money and Student Fees to Subsidize Division I Athletics,” South Dakota News Watch, 2023.03.15].

Taxpayers and students should watch those numbers and ask when we all start getting a concrete return on our public investment in play time for elite athletes.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-03-20 08:51

    The only difference between American football and Roman gladiators is the losing team isn’t fed to the lions.

  2. buckobear 2023-03-20 09:35

    Bill the NFL and NBA for providing them with a”farm” system.

  3. Richard Schriever 2023-03-20 09:47

    Back in my days at USD – IIRC, per credit hour costs were in the range of $8-10/hr. That was about the same amount my dad was paid per hour to work his union job at Morrells. At inflation adjusted rates that would be about $56-70/hr.

  4. Edwin Arndt 2023-03-20 09:59

    Much the same thing is happening in North Dakota. NDSU has won a bunch
    of football championships and yet enrollment is declining to the extent
    that the new president is having to reduce teaching staff and cut programs.

  5. Mark Anderson 2023-03-20 11:10

    There’s a reason it’s called March Madness Cory.

  6. Mark Anderson 2023-03-20 11:17

    Back in the early 60s Edwin, on Rocky and Bullwinkle Wossamotta U fired the English department to fund the football team. This has been going on for a long time.

  7. WillyNilly 2023-03-20 11:45

    I still remember asking about the fees I paid to attend USD. I was a non-trad looking to upgrade my skills and improve my mind and resume. I especially objected to the sports related fees. I was told that I had full access to the athletic facilities and could try to join any team. So I thought I’d look into it. I was not given a position on any team and when I looked into using the athletic facilities it seems that the only time open was at 2 in the morning on Mondays. Still I paid fees to support something I didn’t use just to get my degree. Rip-off. They still send fund-raising letters, which I promptly file in the recycle bin.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-20 15:02

    Well…buckobear, there are very few professional athletes produced by South Dakota colleges. More now than before, (the first I remember were Ordell Braase, Mitchell, a USD grad in the early fifties who had a long career with the Baltimore Colts, and Garney Henley, Hayti, a defensive back/wide receiver with the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League. Henley was a star at Huron College.), but still not many. I send an occasional small check to the athletic department at USD, my alma mater, because I think college athletics add a great deal to the atmosphere of the college community, and, I believe, introduce, in many cases, young South Dakotans to the concept of integration, diversity, and racial equality.

    The University of South Dakota has been integrated since at least 1956, two years after Brown vs. the Board of Education, when Basketball Coach Duane Clodfelter recruited the Danials brothers (Cliff and Jimmy) who were from Brooklyn. USD was the first South Dakota college and first North Central Conference school to recruit African American players. When asked if he recruited the Danials brothers to support integration, Coach Clodfelter said, “No, I brought them here, so we could win.” The dorms were integrated, (I roomed with Horace Robertson, a basketball player from “Bed-Stuy-Brooklyn”) and I got to know several of the African American players. In conversation with them, I learned that they were motivated to come to South Dakota to get a college education. They took that opportunity more seriously than I did.

    Other colleges that integrated their sports teams soon after Brown vs. the Board, were Yankton College and Dakota Wesleyan University. The first African American athlete from South Dakota I remember was Rich Harris, a terrific athlete from Sioux Falls Washington who played football at USD. South Dakota State was rather late to the game, and I don’t remember a black player at State until the 70’s, well after African Americans were playing at Black Hills State and Huron College. I may be wrong, my memory is not stellar.

    At the same time African American athletes were coming to South Dakota, more Native athletes were finding opportunity in South Dakota colleges. There had always been a few Native athletes on college rosters, but opportunity for participation did expand in the 60’s. The first Indian athlete I remember at USD during my tenure was Nyall Brings, a track athlete from Lower Brule, who went to Reliance High School.

    I see the move to Division I by South Dakota State and USD (who will soon be joined by Augustana), as an expansion of opportunity for athletes in South Dakota to get a quality education and an opportunity to improve the educational experience of all our college students. I don’t think professional sports have much to do with it, and I think the benefits outway the costs. We could discuss the basic corruption of the NCAA, but we don’t have enough gigabytes available on the internet.

  9. Mark Anderson 2023-03-20 19:19

    You know Arlo, I ordered my older sister the book on clodfelter. I didn’t know but her picture was in the book cheering on the team. She was head cheerleader in 1958 when they won the national championship. A movie should be made about that effort. It would be unbelievably sentimental. The people of Vermillion chipped in and flew their mother to Vermillion for senior day. They didn’t know it until they saw her in the stands. USD lead the way, when they beat Wisconsin in 1957 Wisconsin opened up the next year. Clodfelter was right.

  10. Mark Anderson 2023-03-20 19:31

    You know Arlo, a few years ago I went to see USD play football against Central Florida. I sat with a large bunch of African Americans all families of people who had played at USD. It was a red corner.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-20 20:01

    Mark–in the book, written by Cloddy’s son, is the story of the 1958 national championship (Division II) which was played in Evansville Indiana. After the game a large contingent of USD fans and students were joined by the team and they went downtown to celebrate. The bars closed in Evansville soon after, but they were told that the bars across the bridge in Kentucky closed much later. The whole crowd caravaned across the bridge to the nearest bar, a large nightclub. Later the team joined them, however when the owners saw the Danials brothers they were told they had to leave as they did not serve Negroes. The entire USD crowd, I’m told over a hundred people, got up and left the bar with the Danials brothers and returned to the Hotel to continue the celebration. I heard this story a number of times when I went to Vermillion in 1965.

  12. Richard Schriever 2023-03-20 22:50

    Mark and Arlo, when I was at USD, one of the first people I got to know was Rodney Foster – two-time All NCC center from Harlem, NY. His afro extended his height from his actual 6’9″ to about 7’4″. I used to eat lunch with the African American football players in the Student Union dining hall. They seemed to enjoy having a broke hippy in their midst. I played on an informal pick-up flag football team with a few; future New England Patriot John Sanders, New Orleans Saints draftee and Wide World of Sports opening “thrill of victory” guy Dwight “Duke” Duncombe and NCC All conference lineman Ezra White. We were hard to beat. Also did some pickup basketball at Prentice Park with some guy named Steve Amundson who’d transferred in from Princeton. As to what do the alumni “stars” do to support their alma maters, I know of a couple Augie alum who do a lot for that school.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-20 23:04

    Richard-Rodney Foster and Will Hamer( Civil Rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer’s nephew) were the last two African American players recruited by Coach Clodfelter. He had a heart attack and cut back his coaching (he coached women’s golf for many years). With Joe Salem as football coach recruiting at USD became more national and Coach Salem knew how to recruit. Remember those days very well. Amundson, whose brother played for Iowa State and the Kansas City Chiefs was an excellent halfback who also had an interest in Theater. John Sanders played many years in the AFL, for New England as I remember. Alumni athletes I know from USD days are very appreciative and supportive of the athletic program.

  14. DaveFN 2023-03-20 23:14

    If nothing else, this push escalating sports competitiveness to the fore is at the service of the egos of university presidents and alumni associations. Salaries of university presidents in SD have skyrocketed over the decades, as have their egos, propped up as they are by investments in sports. God knows the quality of university education in SD hasn’t kept pace. Quite the contrary.

  15. DaveFN 2023-03-20 23:43

    If a quality education offered is a given and a constant (despite the hogwash of Deming’s moralistic fantasy of “continuous quality improvement, ” something most applicable to sub-standard faculty when it comes right down to it, and an admission of guilt if ever there was one of a poor university in need of remediation), increases in tuition can simply not be justified from an educational standpoint. Excess tuition, fees and taxpayer support over and above what is required for a quality education contributes to nothing but largesse in excess of the primary mission of the university which is, pure and simple, a quality education for the students.

  16. Mark Anderson 2023-03-20 23:49

    Well Arlo and Richard, I got to see John Sanders perform in high school. He used to block shots with his stomach in basketball and I saw him run the hundred in Highmore in one of the fastest times in America. He went to Sunshine Bible near Miller.

  17. DaveFN 2023-03-21 00:17

    Put simply, any excess fees and tuition, whether assessed to students or taxpayers, over and above what is necessary for a quality education which is the primary mission of universities, is, quite simply, extortion.

  18. DaveFN 2023-03-21 00:20

    Put simply, any excess fees and tuition, whether assessed to students or taxpayers, over and above what is necessary for a quality education which is the primary mission of universities, is, quite simply, extortion.

  19. DaveFN 2023-03-21 00:34

    SDNewswatch reports “Students supported fee increases at both universities.”

    And just what were the specifics that gave rise to evidence for such presumed support? What were the specific questions asked of the students?

    Rather than sloppily letting such details argue in support of such increases go unexamined, it’s high time we demand more than slop.

  20. DaveFN 2023-03-21 23:58

    Here’s how it goes:

    Local university administrations spread the word to their student population “If you don’t consent to a raise of tuitions and fees, the quality of your education is bound to suffer.”

    Local administrations thereby seek to secure the consent of the students by a kind of covert coercion and threat.

    Having received consent, the next thing is to publicize such manufactured consent as justification for increases: “SDNewswatch reports “Students supported fee increases at both universities.””

    Extortion, period.

  21. DaveFN 2023-03-23 00:01

    What it means in this day and age to be “innovative” is pretty much what it takes to be traditionally known as ” fly by night. ” Here today, gone tomorrow.

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