I have never heard anyone say that their decision to attend USF was decided by our sports teams. Rarely since the first weeks of my freshman year have I heard anyone say they are going to any USF sporting event. Frankly, if it weren’t for the daily emails, I would have forgotten that we have these teams at all. However, the aspects of campus life that do make campus life more memorable seem to be undervalued by the university administration – I have been in classes and clubs that do not appear to get the financial or administrative support they deserve. I’ve lived in a cramped Hayes-Healy dorm room with two other people for a year. Last year, I saw our professors wearing pins, and heard about contentious meetings because their pay was being threatened. USF seems to be out of touch with what makes our school such a unique and valuable experience. The university should get past having an Athletics program and realize that our campus would be better without it.
Looking at the budget report USF publishes, in 2017, the Athletics department brought in $1,477,000. This is amazing until you realize that the department spent $15,670,000. For every dollar that is put into this program, we only get nine cents back. We lost over 14 million dollars on an athletics program that doesn’t have much of influence on campus life. While, admittedly, this is not a huge section of USF’s total $457 mil expenditure, this money is balanced on the same budget as financial aid and is equivalent to the cost of 640 average institutional grants given to incoming freshman or the full tuition of 310 full time students.
What sparked this op-ed is what happened last Thursday, Jan. 26, the first week of the semester. Our school gave out a year of free housing to a random attendee of the men’s basketball game. No, not the women’s team, who at least went to playoffs in 2016, nor the track and field team, who had a runner finish first in the country for the 10,000 meter race. USF Athletics partnered with the office of Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE) to give one year of free, on-campus housing to a crowd member watching a Don’s team that has not made it out of a barely-relevant conference since 1998 (also the year many sophomores were born). If a team is promoted, it should at least be a good team.
It seems to me that the university itself cannot even recognize what little appeal these teams have anymore. The fact that USF had to give free housing to get students to even come to a game is alarming. It seems as though the only reason we still have these teams is because colleges are supposed to. USF doesn’t have to.
I understand that there are student athletes who depend on the Athletics program for scholarships and I have no problem with any students using the existing rules to better themselves. However, I do not think that a university with a selling point on academic excellence and social justice should be spending resources on a program that’s sole purpose is to promote physical capability. A tough physique, while admirable, is not something a university should be handing out money for.
I love and cherish every day that I get to step into a classroom on our campus. But the resources going to the athletics department could be used to better the university. The baseball field alone has room for a residence hall, or two. So many of USF’s clubs that encourage academic excellence, something a university and its students should value, could see substantial, rather than minimal, support. The arts programs could be moved out of X-arts – which seems to be an old garage behind the library – and an arts wing could replace the War Memorial gym. USF could have space to grow on our cramped footprint. We could pay teachers instead of coaches and give aid to students purely for their academics, not for athletic ability or for showing up to a basketball game. The $14 million spent on athletics could be used to make our university better in a way that affects more students’ lives directly. I know that this opinion is far from the status quo, but it does not seem like we are currently encouraging the facilities that we should take pride in.
Featured Photo: The USF Athletics department does not have a major impact on the campus it inhabits, and it is time to acknowledge it. Hursh Karkhanis/FOGHORN