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Morgan Burke Fights the Power

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Some of you may have seen that Purdue Athletics will receive (or rather not give) an additional $2 million back to the University for the next three years. What does this really mean and how did it come about?

"Morgan got how much money back?"
"Morgan got how much money back?"
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

If you get all of your knowledge from the internet, if so God help you, you would assume Morgan Burke was a monster. You would imagine him as a mixture of Scrooge McDuck, Ebenezer Scrooger, and the Grinch. He is the guy who is holding Purdue athletics back! He's the reason Purdue's only been to one Rose Bowl in my lifetime! He's the reason Purdue basketball can't seem to make it to a final four! The guy only cares about the Olympic sports like golf and softball! That's pretty much the image you'd have of Morgan Burke if you only get your picture of him from the internet and message boards like ours. I'm here to tell you that's not even remotely true. I'm here, once again, to defend Morgan Burke.

Sadly it seems like I'm the only one who will step up and defend the man. The above referenced article from the Indy Star is a good example of the good Morgan Burke can do. Burke pushed back against the university and is getting roughly $2 million "back" from the university each of the next three years. I put back in quotes because this is money due to the athletics department for the BTN tv deal. The university argues these are administrative fees. In essence it's rent. Purdue Athletics uses the computer systems and utilities of the university and they have to pay for those. I respect and understand that. I have no problem with it. My issue comes in when you read deeper into the article and see this line:

Before the Big Ten signed its 10-year television deal and the debut of the Big Ten Network in 2006, Purdue’s athletic department was charged approximately $600,000 for services. However, the yearly increase in television revenue also increased the amount the athletic department was charged by the university.

That's where my problem comes in. Basically the university decided that athletics was getting more money so clearly the university was due more money for rendering the same services. Not just a little more money either. If these numbers are true and the fee went from $600,000 to $3.5 million that's some sort of highway robbery. With this new deal Burke struck that means athletics will be giving the university approximately $1 million each year. Seems outrageous to me but when you step back and think about it I suppose you can justify it. At this point you're thinking to yourself "Didn't this article start out as defending Burke? When does that part come?". That part comes right now.

We all like to think of Morgan Burke as this monolithic figure ruling from upon high. He pushes buttons and something happens. He wants the football team to win all he needs to do is push the right button and BOOM Purdue football is suddenly challenging Alabama. It's not like that. It's a problem we as a society face with anyone in power. We want Congress, the President, CEOs, our own boss to simply push the buttons we know are there and make things better. What we all fail to take into account are the other factors around that person. In this case Morgan Burke still reports to a board and a President of the university. These people didn't get into these position by being pushovers. These are strong, powerful, and imposing figures he is going against. Do you think Mitch Daniels would be an easy guy to negotiate with? Do you think you could go into President Daniels and walk away with the $3.5 million in a duffle bag? I think not.

Though the article doesn't say it I would imagine this has been an ongoing discussion between Burke and the university for quite some time. Burke knows how strapped his department is. He knows they are bleeding JPC members. He sees the same football attendance numbers you and I do. He knows that something needs to be done. So, he did something. He wrangled $2 million back from the university. That's money they are going to put to the new cost of attendance that schools are responsible for now. For those not familiar that's basically filling in the gap between what the scholarships pay and what school actually costs. I think it's a good step for the athletes and I fully support it. Roughly $1 million of the $2 will make this a reality.

This money will also go toward lowering the price of student tickets. This is something people have been clamoring for. Starting next year the new Boarding Pass will replace the current VIP card (which replaced the Platinum and Gold cards) at a much cheaper rate. Currently the VIP Card, which includes tickets to all sporting events, is $250. The new Boarding Pass will be a crazy cheap $99. That's one hell of a deal. This is another move I applaud. They recognized there was a problem and they are trying to alleviate it. Lowering the entry cost for students will hopefully put more butts in the seats at football and create a better atmosphere for the football team. Roughly $500K will be going to fund this. The hope of course is that you hook them early and eventually they become JPC members and/or general public ticket buyers. It's a bit like a stereotypical drug dealer scheme. The first taste is cheap but the next ones will cost ya!

That leaves another 500K for Purdue to play around with. To my knowledge there's no special project earmarked for this money. Multiply that by three years and suddenly you're looking at $1.5 million dollars in extra cash just sitting around. The hope is that this, including lowering football ticket prices for the general public, will eventually lead to more money coming in. It's a step in the right direction as Purdue looks to make improvements all around. Football is the straw that stirs the drink and Burke is doing everything he can to make sure it's not only profitable but an engine for success.

You can laugh at that statement but it's the truth. There have been numerous renovations and improvements to football facilities, more plans ongoing for the south end zone, and large payout to the current coaching staff. Those might seem like racing back to the conference but it's not something Purdue is known for. Like him or not we can all agree that Morgan Burke has done his very best to keep the department making money and not losing. Whether you agree with that strategy or not it's the parameter he's been given. Morgan Burke will do everything he can to make this department solvent but he always keeps an eye on the bigger goal. Winning.

If you get a chance at some point go watch a soccer game at Purdue. Find your way over to where Burke is watching the game and introduce yourself. He's a good guy taking on a tough job. You know what you'll find if you talk to him? There's probably no one out there who wants Purdue to win more than he does. There's also no one who takes the losses to heart quite like he does. I think it's time fans recognized that and gave the man a bit of credit.

*Yes I realize the absurdity of applauding the reversal of a move that initially occurred when Burke was in charge as a way of saying Burke is doing great.