Via @IndianaUniv on Twitter

The Fox Guarding the IU Athletics Henhouse?

It is nearly impossible to take a stroll through Indiana University’s Bloomington campus and not fall in love all over again.

From the Sample Gates to the majestic limestone buildings, the school’s flagship campus is routinely included in just about any mention of the most beautiful in the country.

There is no doubt that IU’s gem tucked away in Dunn’s Woods is a treasure for both students and alums alike.

But have you ever considered the cost?  And specifically, is there a cost to the IU Athletics’ programs?

To that latter question, the answer is clearly yes.

Consider this from an Indianapolis Business Journal article from February:

(IU President Michael) McRobbie also tapped a new funding source—revenue from the Big Ten Network, which launched in 2006 and broadcasts sporting events—to invest in such projects as the new Global and International Studies building, and a new academic health sciences building that’s part of the $389 million Indiana University Health Regional Academic Center, a hospital and academic complex under construction in Bloomington.

Big Ten schools have received windfalls in recent years because of distributions from the Big Ten Network and lucrative broadcast-rights deals inked with Fox and ESPN/ABC. IU’s share of revenue from the Big Ten Conference jumped from $13.9 million in 2007 to $40.9 million in 2017.

The school also mentioned the use of IU Athletics resources to fund that new Global and International Studies building in its own release.

“The $53 million building was funded entirely through university sources with half of the funding coming from IU’s Big Ten Network revenues, representing the largest-ever commitment from IU Athletics revenue to support the core academic mission of the university.”

More than just the funding of one building, it appears that IU Athletics money is diverted back to the University on a routine basis.  Consider this from Director of Athletics Fred Glass’ profile page:

Under Glass’ stewardship, Indiana Athletics has been financially self-supporting without any tuition contribution, student fee, or taxpayer money.  In fact, the Athletic Department annually pays over $17 million to the University in tuition, room and board, books, and fees for scholarships, and is helping to fund the University’s new Global and International Studies Building and Regional Academic Health Center.

BTN money is also expected to fund a “significant portion” of that $45 million Regional Academic Health Center according to an Indy Star report.


There is an arms race going on in college athletics right now, and by most accounts IU is treading water at best.  Major investments at other Big Ten schools have given them a recruiting advantage over Indiana.

While other schools, including Purdue, have been proactively embracing their athletics programs as a pillar of the institution, that doesn’t appear to be the case at Indiana.  Purdue’s new football only performance complex, funded in large part by BTN revenues, is just one example of how IU’s programs have been left at a competitive disadvantage.

Of course you’ve seen the recent upgrades to Memorial Stadium, Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, and several other large projects.  IU Athletics is clearly upgrading — or at least modernizing — although most of those projects have been largely funded by private donations.

With full or at least clearly defined access to the Big Ten Network revenue that it generates, IU Athletics could be doing much more to attract the best of the best to Bloomington.  BTN’s annual revenue distribution per school now exceeds $50 million.

Why are we mentioning this now?

If you are an IU alum and this situation strikes a chord with you, there is something you can do.  Today.

Voting is underway for a seat on the IU Board of Trustees, and there is a clear distinction between how the two candidates view this matter.

To be clear, this is not an endorsement of a candidate.

There are too many unknowns in this story, including specifics on how all of the other Big Ten schools are spending their BTN revenues, and a deeper understanding of how best each candidate might serve the needs of both the school and IU Athletics.

We fully understand and appreciate the perspective that IU is an academic institution first.  And to be clear, there are some university costs that an athletics department should reimburse.

This is a question of scale, or degree.  While all Big Ten schools are surely using BTN revenue, Indiana seems to be taking things to another level, with no clear plan or accountability.  And there is no denying that is coming at the expense of the athletics department and its facilities, which by just about any measure are not competitive.

At the same time, it would appear that IU’s competition in the Big Ten is not suffering academically while taking a different stance vis-a-vis its BTN revenue.  Support of academics and athletics is not mutually exclusive.  Athletics is one of the most visible aspects of a Big Ten institution, and a clear gateway to broader awareness and interest in a school.

The point here is issue awareness.  If you believe that IU Athletics should keep all of its Big Ten revenue and be positioned as strongly as possible going forward, then there appears to clearly be a candidate for you in this Board of Trustees election.


IU’s trustees are responsible for vital tasks like helping steer major university decisions, managing the multi-billion dollar budget, and coordinating projects that will shape IU’s future.

President McRobbie’s contract is up on June 30, 2021.  The trustees are the voice of IU alums when it comes to finding a new president or extending McRobbie’s contract.

You can read about both candidates here and cast your vote here.  Once you read the candidate bios it will be clear where each individual stands on the issues described herein.

Voting is now open, only takes a minute, and will close at 10 a.m. ET on June 28.

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