If you are like me, you want Hokies sports teams to have the very best venues and practice facilities. But at what cost?
After the recently resolved Stadium Woods controversy, many people failed to question why our football team needed an indoor practice facility in the first place. While other Tech teams will use the facility, are we sure it would improve their performance or recruitment?
According to the Washington Post, the project has an approved budget of $25 million and is supposedly privately funded. Yet, only $11 million has been spoken for as of Sept. 10. In these strained economic times, borrowing money to pay for this sort of facility seems irresponsible.
Beyond that project, Lane Stadium is likely to get an expansion to the student section in coming years. Whether you want more seating capacity or not, you can be sure that such an expansion will come at a significant cost.
Remind me again — are the Hokies an NFL team, operating like a regular business, or merely a college team with a lackluster offense?
Students cannot keep footing the bill for the lofty goals of coaches and athletic directors. We cannot expect tuition costs to decrease when universities engage in reckless spending over bloated sports programs.
Universities must also think of the academic expectations of student-athletes. As the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Sports states, “Student-athletes…insofar as possible, should be indistinguishable from other undergraduates.”
If only that were the case.
The Knight Commission, led by many university presidents and officials, agrees that the collegiate sports mentality must change. Starting in 1991, the Commission has published three comprehensive reports detailing problems with intercollegiate sports and proposing solutions. Many such proposals have been adopted by the NCAA, which has no official ties to the Commission.
The Commission notes that athletics spending per athlete has risen substantially compared to stagnant academic spending per student. At ACC universities, the ratio between the two types of per capita spending was 660 percent in 2008. In SEC universities, the ratio was a whopping 1080 percent.
This would be somewhat acceptable if funding for athletics came only from game revenues and private donations. The reality however, is that colleges generally lose money on their athletics programs, compensating their losses by digging into their institutions’ general funds and student fees. That money is better spent investing in the improvement of academic programs.
Intercollegiate sports are only one manifestation of universities’ desire for visibility. Tech’s new Signature Engineering Building and Center for the Arts are great examples of excessive spending beyond athletics.
The Engineering Building indeed fulfills a need for more classroom space for the department, but it does so with many unnecessary features.
Alas, it is understandable that the university wants to be lauded with state-of-the-art facilities. We should want to attract the best talent, scholarly and otherwise, to come to our great university.
Similarly, no one denies that intercollegiate sports are an integral part of the college experience. They build a sense of community among students and are a source of campus pride. But these benefits are only worth so much.
Colleges must find the proper balance between investing in impressive, shiny new facilities and investing in their students’ academic success.