Mizzou Football: Memorial Stadium renovation presents issues

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The announcement of a $98 million construction project in the south end zone of the home of the Mizzou football team is precarious when considered in the context of the university’s financial state.

Friday’s announcement that the University of Missouri Board of Curators unanimously approved a major renovation to Memorial Stadium seems like great news for fans of Mizzou football. As with most news items, there’s more to the story of the Memorial Stadium renovation.

According to Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star, Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk presented the plans for the renovation as “a revenue generator.” The rest of the university is hoping that Sterk is right.

This announcement comes on the heels of Missouri making many cuts to several different areas of the university’s operation in order to make its budget work. Thanks partially to state budget cuts, the university had to deal with a budget deficit of nearly $60 million when it formed its budget for fiscal year 2018.

To deal with that shortfall, the university has planned a long series of short-term and long-term remedies. Many of these include the consolidation of positions, determination not to fill open positions or replace soon-to-retire employees, and other cost saving measures which aren’t detailed in the budget. There are a few highlights which could affect the ones who arguably work the hardest toward the success of Missouri football, however.

Short-term plans to address the budget shortfall begin to be listed on the budget document’s ninth page. The school of nursing will be eliminating seven clinical sections. There is a technology replacement deferral listed under Human Environmental Services, which is echoed later in the document in Information & Access Tech Services. That measure calls for a decrease of desktop enhancement by 12 percent, and includes the following text:

"The reduction of these funds will make it more difficult for departments to manage their equipment as machines age. Productivity may suffer as well as support costs of older machines being higher."

So much for cost-saving. There’s even more interesting items in the Provost department. There are two items which call for the reduction of student support and student support staff. Additionally, the budget calls for a reduction in tutors, staff for the career center and honors courses. There is also a reduction in hours for the writing center and for study plan consultants.

Meanwhile, the school’s campus infrastructure fund is contributing $800,000 toward the Memorial Stadium renovation. Additionally, Missouri is taking out over $57 million in bonds which bank on future ticket revenues. The question begs to be asked: couldn’t computers used by academic staff be considered campus infrastructure? If not, then staff for the career center?

There are more questions to be asked. Why won’t the university take out a $57 million loan to make sure that the athletes who essentially put in a full work week on the football field during the season have full access to tutors and courses that will make them competitive in the job market after graduation?

All of that is problematic enough, but it gets worse when the fact that this is what the university says is just compensation for the effort and time that the athletes give the university. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem that the football program is going to demand less effort or time from the athletes on par with the reduction in services offered to them.

Mizzou needs state-of-the-art facilities to compete in the modern landscape of college football, there is no argument there. Mizzou will soon be able to make that claim, but its ability to claim that the education and amenities provided to the athletes in exchange for their work are also top-notch has taken a significant hit.