“What’s Happening Off the Field”, a new report on the Big 12 from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni suggests that all is not well beyond the playing fields. First, in a sure gauge of misplaced priorities, it’s no surprise that athletic expenditures appear to have grown at a higher rate than other expenditures at at least half of the schools. Perhaps worse, though, is a look at the other purposes to which universities are directing their spending. As the report indicates, in the five years ending in 2008 “nine of the Big 12’s institutions increased spending on administration, and they did so by an average of 59 percent.” [italics mine] Has this increase in administrative expenditure accomplished any evident improvement in the report’s other metrics, of four and six year graduation rates and freshmen retention? No, not reliably. In fact, it’s impossible to make out any reliable variation in performance in these categories between those 9 schools that increased administrative spending and the three valorous schools—Iowa State, Texas A&M, and Missouri—that slashed it. Of course, there are more complex factors at work beyond the measure of the survey, but even in an omniscient look, I doubt you’d find improvement in any category even remotely correlated with the growth of administrative spending. To hear even of 3 frugal universities is inspiring though, and let’s hope more take heed of their example.