It’s not hyperbole, it’s reality, says LSU President F. King Alexander.
If the mid-year cuts to higher education are deep enough that campuses close early or that summer school is cut, then athletic programs will suffer, he told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday afternoon.
Alexander, in his address, said that higher education institutions are trapped in “a fog” of uncertainty where school leaders are anxiously awaiting to find out from legislators how severe the damage will be on their individual campuses.
“I know a lot of people will say, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen,’” he said referring to the prospect of LSU football being hurt. “Well, that will happen if we don’t have summer school. We’ll only have half of our football team eligible.”
The recent theme of using football to garner attention for worst-case scenarios to higher education has been widely criticized by many legislators who have stated that the rhetoric is either unrealistic or that it minimizes the importance of cuts to academics.
“It’s not us saying that,” Alexander said. “It’s the NCAA telling us that — that student athletes have to be eligible to play. And yes, classes and sports go together. They’re student athletes, you can’t have one without the other.”
There is a $70 million mid-year cut on the table for higher education this year, of which some $17 million would apparently go against LSU’s approximately $420 million budget. That’s a four percent cut, and the prospect of it is making Alexander bring back his canard about financial exigency.
But Alexander is saying that the actual cut to higher education could be $200 million. He’s saying that because supposedly there is still a $200 million shortfall being debated at the legislature following the cuts that have moved out of the House Appropriations Committee and the tax increases that have been voted through on the House floor. Alexander is using that number to describe a worst-case scenario that would kill LSU football because there would be no summer school.
Which is irresponsible, and it’s a good example of pissing on his own product. Statements like these might be aimed at pressuring legislators to raise taxes, which in and of itself is an abuse of Alexander’s position because it’s not his place to dictate to the legislature how it must arrive at funding his budgetary needs – and it’s fairly clear he’s holding himself out as a stooge for Gov. John Bel Edwards in making that demand – but what they do is create national headlines which can’t be taken back once prospective students see them.
It’s like being accused of child rape on the front page of the New York Times and then having that accusation be retracted on page A-18 later. Nobody sees the retraction, just like nobody will see that the legislature has found a way to get Alexander enough money that he can keep the doors open with a $400 million budget.
Or even if people do see the retraction, they’re going to think Alexander is a damn fool who cries wolf about funding when his problems don’t ever seem to actually materialize.
What’s clear from the reaction to the first round of emotional terrorism inflicted on LSU fans, that by Edwards himself, is that the people of Louisiana aren’t having any of this brand of advocacy. They see it for a lie, and they’re fed up with these kinds of tactics.
What Alexander is doing is making this worse. He is abusing LSU’s goodwill around the state. And if there was actual leadership at the top, he’d be rightly fired for it. But that won’t happen, because Alexander is making himself Edwards’ useful stooge at the legislature – and it’s apparent that this governor likes loyal stooges.