Budgets are death in the world of T.V. news.
Yeah, that's kind of a First World problem, seeing as how budgets are the backbone to states, cities and schools and their impact is far greater than just inconveniencing a reporter. But to actually cover the budget process is a b-i-t-c-h. B-roll is essentially trying to get creative with sheets of paper (always look for the hand leafing through pages!) and interviews are usually done with officials that crunch numbers for a living -- a good group of people but not exactly great sound.
A harrowing rescue from a fiery death trap, budget stories are not.
Not to mention, more often than not an original proposed budget can be seen as a scare tactic. Officials bemoaning how tough times are and how drastic changes may be needed. Then, after some "work," the final draft is usually bad but nowhere near as catastrophic as it was first presented -- officials play the hero and the people are placated. So where the trick is to find some talking points in the budget, a reporter has to be careful not to be a sucker.
See, it's not easy to cram all of that into about seventy-five seconds. But there is something fascinating, different, about the situation at Syracuse University. Just take a look at the first graph from Chris Carlson's story from last week:
Over the past year, members of the Syracuse faculty have grown more suspicious and unhappy with the school's spending on athletics, a strain that new chancellor Kent Syverud has spent the first three months of his tenure trying to clean up.
Now that's intrigue! Faculty members are "suspicious" regarding money spent on athletics? The new chancellor is trying to "clean" that up? There are questions about revenue and taxes and a lot more. Hell, the school is claiming that it's $400 million in the hole!
Okay, okay, I'll calm down. I mean, this is probably all nothing. More than likely the athletics department has done its own thing for far too long and the new administrator wants to not only set things up his way, he also likely wants to ease tensions. It wouldn't be too much to ask Daryl Gross, PHD, to be more accessible when it comes to money and at the same time, it probably would change minds in other departments when they see some of the inner-workings of the athletic department.
It's all complicated minutia, old complicated minutia.
What it comes down to, as far as I can tell, is that non-athletics departments don't want to chip in to help out Doc Gross and the athletics department on costs that they should be able to handle themselves. And if athletics is reporting that they can't or aren't making enough money, that's probably "accounting cuteness" more than it is reality.
It's like an NBA franchise owner claiming he is losing money one minute and then selling the team for a half a billion dollars the next minute. Businesses do that across the board in one form or another all the time. SU seems to do that with all of its entities in some fashion, too.
Nothing to see here, people.
Buuuuutttt, what if this is the start of something bigger?
The new sheriff in town wants to make sure everyone knows who is in charge and guns for the popular and somewhat controversial athletics department. The university, like the majority of them across the country, is divided between education supporters and athletics...supporters.
The All Powerful Daryl Gross, PHD, vs. everyone else. Old guard vs. new guard with a changing of the landscape.
Whoa, talk about making a mountain out of a molehill and getting suckered into a story -- totally breaking one of the Budget Covering rules! Yet, can't help myself. Watching where Gross stands as administration shifts is an interesting angle. Can you believe he's been around for just about a decade now? It still seems like it was yesterday he buzzed in from California with big ideas of taking SU to some Hollywood level. I always got the impression former chancellor Nancy Cantor kind of let Gross hit the ground running from minute one, making way for him to become one of the faces of SU athletics.
And the thing is, I think Gross has done one hell of a job as athletic director.
Since we've all burned the Greg Robinson years from our minds, I can assume you are all thinking about how SU football is, at the very least, fun again. And other "Olympic" sports are more competitive than they ever have been. Plus, Gross' getting Syracuse out of the eroding Big East should make him permanent Big Man on Campus.
(I'm also a supporter, in some measure anyway, of his marketing Syracuse as New York's College Team. Why spend money advertising in Liverpool or Watertown? NYC is a gold mine of more untapped fan sources than areas SU already owns. This was just stupid, though.)
Maybe justifying his ways and means, showing how the sausage is made to the new guy isn't worth his sticking around? Even taking away the "new guy" aspect, I'm sure Gross is probably tired of the complaints, sounded or rumored, from other departments. He is probably a coveted man by other schools, and there are always rumors of his imminent departure. A few years ago it wouldn't have registered much if Gross bolted, but now things are different. Orange athletics are better across the board because of him. His leaving would be a major blow, with possible ramifications of a full-blown overhaul on athletics that could have even farther-reaching tentacles (Mike Hopkins' future, Gary Gait's contract, etc).
Of course, I'm fully aware that this all could go away with a whimper, I hear you, but I'm at least open to the fact it could lead somewhere, to something. What? I don't know, but this could end up being one hell of a budget story to be told.