Athletics are an integral part of our educational curriculum. Although enrollments have been down over the past several years, cutting athletics programs is not the answer. We should be proud of our young athletes, many of whom are entering the competitive circuit. I argue to retain the full funding for our athletic programs, instead focusing on ways our institution can attract new enrollments and expand our budgets in creative ways.
We are not the only institution that is struggling. If it is any consolation, spending on athletics has been rising at a rate “three or four times faster than the rate of increase in academic budgets,” according to the NCAA (Kirwan & Turner, 2010). Therefore, we need to pay attention to what some of the most successful Division III schools are doing to balance their budgets.
Three of the most common arguments to slash our sports programs we in athletics have been hearing include the following. First, “no one is watching the sports,” meaning our returns on investment are relatively low (Eifling, 2013). However, our football program is thriving and we simply need to come up with new ways of raising revenues through advertising and other means rather than sacrificing the scholarships of the kids that our coaches have been cultivating for years. Also, our programs in other sports have been attracting students from around the country who seek opportunities to play tennis, golf, or soccer. Our women’s program is also doing well, and even if “no one is watching,” as Eifling (2013) claims, the program needs to continue.
Second, many people ask why academic programs should be cut in favor of football and other athletics. I say, let’s keep both. How? Better financial management and better marketing of our school. If we can attract international students, we might increase our enrollments and permit all our programs to flourish. If we start engaging the community and encouraging members of the community to attend more field hockey games, then we might be able to raise more revenue for the sports programs that will indirectly allow our art, music, and literature programs to flourish at the same time.
Third, our sports programs are not managed well. This point I do agree with, which is why Kirwan & Turner (2010) are advocating greater overall transparency in how collegiate athletics programs are managed. We need to be more accountable for our budgets, and what our expenditures really are.
Now I would like to make three strong arguments in favor of our sports programs, because I believe I can convince you to retain our funding and possibly even increase it over the next ten years. First, football programs are saving small schools all around the country (Demirel, 2013). As Demierel (2013) puts it, “the real money is on the field,” (p. 1). The revenues we have the potential to generate from a winning team can help save some of those academic departments that are also suffering.
Second, related to the first argument is that athletics encourage academic studies among student athletes. Kirwan & Turner (2010) show that when schools manage their athletics programs well, student-athletes are coached and mentored to bolster their academic performance.
Third, my commitment as Athletic Director is to an ethical athletics program that encourages all students to participate, and which excludes no one. This means that our athletics program will promote policies of transparency and fiscal responsibility. I expect the same from other college departments. If we work together, we can attract more students from around the country and even around the world. Boosting enrollments in academic programs will help us boost the quality of our athletics department, which will in turn attract funds in the form of tickets and merchandise sales.
Demirel, E. (2013). The D-III revolution. SB Nation. Retrieved online: http://www.sbnation.com/longform/2013/10/1/4786810/diii-football-revolution
Eifling, S. (2013). How Division-III colleges profit from football no one watches. Deadspin. Retrieved online: http://deadspin.com/how-division-iii-colleges-profit-from-football-no-one-w-1440369611
Kirwan, W.E. & Turner, R.G. (2010). Changing the game. AGB Trusteeship Magazine. Retrieved online: http://agb.org/trusteeship/2010/septemberoctober/changing-the-game-athletics-spending-in-an-academic-context
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