Posted by: nickgerlich | September 10, 2007

Good Sports

Collegiate and professional sports occupy a prominent position in American culture. They wield a significant economic impact, with salaries, advertising revenues, and licensing agreements totalling into the billions of dollars. Like it or not, sports is a huge business, and without them, our economy would be in a world of hurt.

I suppose the only irony is that Sports is usually Section D in most newspapers. If they are worth so much money, why don’t they put the latest scores in the first section, and all other news farther inside?

WT BuffaloEven WTAMU is getting in on the sports action. With professional sports teams demolishing and erecting new stadiums wevery 20-30 years, it has become an accepted part of American life that if your team does not have a new stadium, it must somehow be inferior.

Just ask the Chicago Cubs about inferiority complexes.

Last week WT announced its plans to build a new sports complex that will cost $40-45 million, no small amount compared to our normal operating budget. Among the beneficiaries of this new complex will be baseball, softball, and football. WT President J. Patrick O’Brien wants to bring football back on-campus, and build game-day excitement among the campus residents (WT moved to off-campus Kimbrough Stadium in 1959). The football stadium alone would cost about $20 million.

Where is all this money going to come from? Private donors, that’s where. WT does not have these kinds of funds sitting idly by.

But what about academics, you say? Should we do not be promoting them? And would it not be nice for some kind donor to endow a salary fund so that we professors could have salaries closer to the averages in our fields?

All good, for sure, but the world does not operate this way. Universities need impressive athletic complexes to help recruit new players, as well as fans. Alumni love it when their alma mater goes on a winning rampage, and it sure looks good if they are playing in new digs.

Never mind the fact that it is highly doubtful that anyone will ante up millions of dollars for academics. No, some people will only give money if it is going to athletics.

Truth be known, I do not mind these new plans. I rather like them, even though I seldom ever attend WT sporting events. I know that, in order to be a player these days (and I am not talking about individual athletes here, but rather the whole university), you must have glitzy facilities. Sky boxes. State-of-the-art press facilities. Lights, sound, and scoreboards that give the place a rock concert feel.

And showers where the plumbing isn’t rusting away.

Winning athletic programs in brand new facilities could very well help the university in attracting more students overall. And that will go a long way in enhancing our revenues…which can then be used to increasee faculty salaries. Sounds like a good deal to me.

I wish Dr. O’Brien and the AThletic Department good luck in raising these funds. Early word is that funding has already been secured for the new baseball stadium, so maybe we do not have as far to go as we might think.

And with the Buffs tearing up opponents on the gridiron, what better time to go on a fundraising mission? It’s a lot easier to solicit funds when teams are winning.

I just hope we don’t totally lose sight of academics, though. Only a small percentage of students get to partake of athletic facilities, while everyone is here to get an education.

Dr “Anyone Care to Donate?” Gerlich


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