Students pay for a portion of the school’s athletic programs, and although the return may not be obvious when one looks at ticket sales, the program serves other purposes.
Few people like paying dues and fees. Most people like cheering for at least one sports team.
These two statements do not appear to follow any sense of normal logic, but on a university campus, the two are linked more closely than one would expect.
As part of the cost to attend school this year, full-time students paid $616 in student fees on top of their base annual tuition. These fees paid for things such as student activities, building bonds and student health services.
Approximately one-third of the money also went to support university athletics as approved by the Utah State Board of Regents. All told, athletics received in the ballpark of $3 million from the students.
This raises the issue of whether or not students are receiving their money’s worth.
Athletics at this school is not a money-maker. In fact, similar to most universities, it isn’t even in the black.
Still, many of the teams that this university fields successfully compete in-conference and hold their own when playing
out-of-conference. Two All-Americans wore wolverine green this year and a host of others have garnered Great West Conference honors.
The relationship that athletics and academics have is tricky and difficult to quantify. Winning games on a basketball court will not affect test scores in the classroom, but they do have an impact on the school.
Take the recent experiences of Butler University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Neither school is a large athletic powerhouse, but both boast a rich academic environment.
As part of their Cinderella success in the NCAA Tournament, the two received a national spotlight that drew attention to their basketball teams and the universities that they represent.
Michael Jacobsen, Athletic Director for UVU, pointed to a recent news broadcast that “the exposure they got was equal to $600 million.”
Exposure and prestige on a playing field impacts academic prestige and success directly, and athletics have already played a part in academics at this university.
“Years ago, we ran a survey; we’d had four-year programs for ten years” said Jacobsen, “and 12 percent of the people on the survey in Utah County responded that they knew we had four year programs.”
In talks with the university president at the time, Jacobsen attributed the misconception to athletics teams competing with known junior colleges in the state. Both agreed on the move up to Division I status.
“What comes first, Division I athletics or university, I don’t know,” said Jacobsen, “but Division I athletics came before the university came. But they all go together, they all parallel each other.”
Aside from the entertainment value of games, university athletics expose the university to attention in ways that they money cannot buy.
When UVU received approval for the science building expansion, only the local media cared to run the story. When an athlete like Ronnie Price, Isiah Williams or Ben Kjar performs on a level that wins national merit, the story reaches a national audience.
Academics and athletics have a symbiotic relationship at a university. No matter how high a level a school’s academics reach, athletics play a part in advertising that success and creating community support. If either were to struggle or wither, both would be adversely affected.
Student fees that go into the cost of running the athletics program aid in exposing the school to the nation as a legitimate four-year university. By contributing to athletics, students plant the school’s colors on the national landscape.
No one likes paying fees, but at least this money sees a return on the investment.