When President Loh implemented his top-down decision to move UM to the Big Ten, an army of campus underlings rolled forth to spin the tale of how this is good for academics. This is a bad joke – we have yet to see the first scholarly benefit which was not available to academics before the move; the value of course is to people who feed at the trough of athletics programs. Maybe one day soon we’ll be told of, say, a book or manuscript which is available to a professor here via the Big Ten deal which would not have been before. That will end up being a very expensive book indeed.
The division of labor is clear: private foundations are responsible for cashing checks whereas the state’s taxpayers are responsible for paying invoices.
But there is one kind of intercollegiate competition which doesn’t need a lot of doubletalk to relate back to scholarship and intellectual prowess – chess. Campuses traditionally give next to nothing for smart kids to enter a battle of wits, and this campus is no exception to that, but it is a domain in which UMBC has reigned supreme for years – kudos to them!
Money might be getting involved in even that competition though. But not necessarily with great effect. You still need to recruit smart kids, who know not to delude themselves into thinking there is a lucrative career in chess after college.
The amount of money being discussed is trivial by collegiate athletic terms. A million dollars? This campus spends that much on a single coach (by the time you add up the public and private dollars likely being tossed into the contract). We probably spend more on shrimp cocktails for one reception at a football game than is given to the entire chess team at College Park. (Err … do we have a chess team?)