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UI Among Biggest Spenders on Sports in Big Ten

The economics of college athletics are much like that of the larger world, says University of Iowa lecturer Stacey Brook. There are those with deep pockets, and those without.

"There are definite haves and have nots," says Brook, who researches sports economics and teaches in UI's Tippie College of Business.

For the nearly 70,000 fans who will funnel into Kinnick Stadium today for the Hawkeyes' home finale against the University of Michigan, there will be little doubt in which class UI's status lies.

A new $9 million scoreboard and video system, which UI unveiled at the start of the season, now bookends Kinnick, while just west of the stadium, construction continues on the second phase of a $55-million football operations and indoor practice complex.

Those pricey projects have contributed to the nearly $129 million in buildings and grounds expenditures for UI athletics—a self-sustaining department—since 2005, according to NCAA finance data compiled annually by USA Today.

In the Big Ten, which includes several of the nation's athletics departments with the deepest pockets, such major facilities projects are nothing out of the ordinary. Of the 10 Big Ten schools that have made their athletics finance reports public since 2005, when USA Today first began collecting the data, UI has spent the third most on its athletics facilities, trailing only Ohio State University ($207.4 million) and the University of Wisconsin ($150.3 million).

And in fiscal year 2012, when UI cut the ribbon on an indoor football practice field and completed its renovation of Carver-Hawkeye Arena, it spent a total $33.5 million on athletics facilities—more than any other school in the Big Ten. That was well ahead of the University of Michigan, which was the second-highest facilities spender at $23.3 million that year.

What Brook finds interesting, however, is how the big dollars being spent by the major conferences on facilities stack up against that of the smaller conferences, which illustrates that steep divide between those "have and have nots."

Using 2011 totals, Brook found that schools in the Big Ten spent an average of $18.4 million on athletics facilities that year, the most of any conference. The SEC was close behind with a $17.5 million average, followed by the Big 12 at $12.8 million and ACC at $11.9 million.

The majority of schools from the other 26 conferences represented in the data, however—the Atlantic Sun and Colonial conferences, for example—largely averaged well below $1 million spent annually on facilities.

In 2011, the Ohio Valley Conference schools, which participate in Division I of the NCAA and the FCS for football, averaged $182,000 in facilities spending, or about 1 percent what Big Ten schools spent.

"It's primarily those larger conferences spending lots and lots of money, while some schools have spent zero," Brook says.

Jane Meyer, senior associate director of athletics at UI, said the Football Operations Center will be among the top facilities of its kind once complete, and will help Iowa compete for the nation's top student-athlete recruits.

"The facility we've designed and are building and our donors have allowed us to construct should put us on par to make sure we are going to provide the best opportunities for recruits to come look at our campus, to be able to sell the University of Iowa that this is a premiere institution, and we'll have quality facilities to assist them to meet their goals both academically and athletically," Meyer said.

The first phase of the football complex project—the 102,000-square foot indoor practice facility—was completed prior to last season. The second phase, which alone carries $36.6 million price tag, is anticipated to be finished by the start of the 2014 season.

The two-level, 76,000-square-foot Football Operations Center will house a strength training area, locker rooms, coaches offices, an equipment room, and showcase area for Iowa football history.

The facility is being funded with athletics department revenues and private donations, Meyer said. The department is currently in the midst of a $35 million fundraising campaign for the project.

Rick Klatt, UI's associate athletics director for external relations, said coaches and athletics department representatives toured facilities around the country during the planning process.

"There were several visits made to a wide range of different facilities to take the very best from each to incorporate into our own," Klatt said. "There were visits made to peer institutions within the Big Ten and other institutions outside of the Big Ten."'

Meanwhile, Klatt said the other major athletics project for this year—the overhaul of the scoreboard system inside Kinnick—has helped UI enhance the gameday experience. Klatt said the videoboard has proven to be a steep learning curve for its operators, but as each game passes, UI is making greater use of the massive video screen above the south end zone with full-screen videos and live "look-ins" at other games.

"We're continuing to identify opportunities to go full screen with video, and I think our fans are going to see more of that," Klatt said. "Every game we've done more than the previous game."

UI is also currently working with a consultant on its public address system to make adjustments and enhance the stadium's sound for the 2014 season.

"There are pieces of our gameday experience we'll be working on during the spring and summer to improve and/or change," Klatt said. "That, frankly, is a constant evolution as we see other schools doing things, or our fans ask for some other enhancements, we respond to those requests.

"There's always room for improvement."

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