VOLUME 31, NUMBER 7 THURSDAY, October 7, 1999
ReporterThe Mail

Revenue from athletic program can enhance rest of university

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Dear Editor:

I am writing this letter in response to a conversation that was taking place in the commuter lounge at lunchtime one day this week. It seems that a group of students had read the article in the Generation that discussed the increase of funds to the athletic program. It sounded like these students took great offense to the amount of money put into moving UB into the NCAA Division I-A ranking, while other programs suffered due to inadequate funding.

It is a sad testament to our society that funding for the arts is secondary to the funding given to athletics. It is, however, a misjudgment on society's part. If we were not a society driven by sports and entertainment, then perhaps these students would have been protesting the lack of funding for college athletics instead. Not that I feel athletics are any more or less important than academics. What I propose is that we should look at what benefits can be derived from an enhanced athletic program. Let me explain:

I am a transfer student from the University of Tennessee. College athletics-football and basketball in particular-are HUGE at this institution, as well as most institutions in the South. And, there are many students there who care for neither sport. A grotesque amount of money is spent each year to renovate or repair a 107,000-plus-seat football stadium, and a 25,000-plus-seat basketball arena. There are tens of thousands of dollars-perhaps hundreds of thousands but I don't know the figures-allocated for athletic scholarships. Parking on game day is a nightmare, and citywide traffic problems are increased tenfold. The University of Tennessee is the defending national football champion, and the women's basketball team won the NCAA national championship an unprecedented three years in a row. The amount of money generated by these venues is truly impressive. And, yes, it seems that athletics is indeed held in higher esteem than academics. This is the misconception I want to argue.

Each year, the university receives academic scholarships per game from major sponsors, like Chevrolet, for every game that is televised. The television rights were a direct result of the university's Division I-A standing. Each year, a percentage of all revenue from athletic events is channeled directly back into academic programs, and I have seen the $1 million check(s) given to the academic budget from the profits and/or surplus in the athletic programs.

Aside from the sheer financial gain the university receives are the students who are enabled, through the receipt of athletic scholarships, to follow academic pursuits that would otherwise have been an improbable goal due to familial constraints. Some of the athletes are very poor and this is their best chance at a better future for themselves. They are held to a strict academic expectation-an expectation that some non-athletes would be hard pressed to achieve.

However, this is an established athletic program, and I do not remember what it was like in the beginning stages. As the University of Tennessee has been a public state land-grant university since 1796, the athletic programs were in place long before I or my parents were born. I'm sure it was a long and painful process.

I am not, by writing this letter, suggesting that athletic programs are more important than academics, or vice versa. I'm only suggesting that, perhaps instead of planning to picket at the stadium dressed in trenchcoats and sunglasses-a little too much like Columbine, don't you think?-and calling themselves the GPA Mafia, these students should practice a bit more tolerance, and research the goals the elevated athletics program has in mind. If, indeed, there are no plans to reinvest funds generated back into the academic programs, then more power to them, trenchcoats and all.

I would like to say in closing that I hope UB has such lofty goals as using revenues from sports to revitalize the academic programs. If not, then when we hold physical pursuits in higher esteem than intellectual ones, it is truly a sad day for society.

Thank you for your time.

Deanna Bridges
Junior zoology majo

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