Athletic Rivals Join to Urge More Research Funding

KNOXVILLE — The University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee — Saturday’s football opponents — were “on the same side of the ball” Friday in support of more state funding for higher education.

In a joint news conference, the heads of the two campuses and the new president of UT said the need for funding of academic and research programs at all state colleges and universities is urgent.

UT President J. Wade Gilley said higher education will worsen soon if new money is not forthcoming.

“In a booming economy, the state should find a way to invest in the future. If you don’t invest in the future when the economy is booming, when will you invest?” Gilley said.

UM President Lane Rawlings said his university has a funding crisis and that all public institutions are “in the same boat.

“I hesitate to say it, but we are losing our good faculty to universities like Michigan and Georgia Tech, and we can’t afford to lose them. What I feared would happen has happened.”

UT-Knoxville Chancellor Bill Snyder cited several startup firms, some using research and technology developed in Tennessee, that located outside the state because of infrastructure problems like inadequate funding of public schools and universities.

In 1997-98, combined state research funding for UT- Knoxville and the University of Memphis was about $15 million. State research funding was $70.9 million at the University of Georgia, $27.7 million at the University of Florida, and $25.4 million at the University of North Carolina.

The University of Tennessee system and the University of Memphis together conduct about $180 million in research funded by federal and private grants.