All it takes is a 20-minute drive down I-35 to arrive at one of the most iconic football grounds in the state of Texas, Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium. There play the Longhorns: padded behemoths whose performance week in and week out has a palpable effect on the student body and an extensive alumni network.
The Longhorns rally both the student body and the alumni, as well as countless other interested parties, not around the football program itself but the university as a whole. Recently, Southwestern began the long and arduous process of creating its own rally point, the Pirates football team, a move that in the long run will have similar positive effects.
Although the university already has a strong, respectable athletic program that provides the student athletes themselves with an opportunity to grow on and off the field, it has failed to rally the general student body around it.
Football has the potential to be the center around which alumni and students gather, not just to cheer on the football team but to celebrate their pride in the university. It will foster a more unified and larger alumni network more eager to support and donate to the school because they maintain their feeling of connection to it. Football could also help increase publicity and name recognition for the university.
Even so, at a time when the university has decided to cut library costs and cannot keep professors’ salaries in line with inflation, some argue that a football team may seem imprudent.
While the positive effects may not be felt immediately and the university may lose money in the short term, as long as the program is well run over time, revenue will begin to catch up with and eventually exceed expenses. In 15 or 20 years from now, when the program has had time to establish itself, alums will be able to return and take pride in what Southwestern accomplished, knowing that they were there at the beginning.
Opponents of the move also express concerns about the effect that the presence of football players themselves will have on the university. At a small school, the effect of 100 new people on the composition of the student body will not be as diluted as at other schools, so this is a serious consideration. This where the university must remember that it has a responsibility to admit student-athletes that are likely to be productive members of our community, as they have been doing up to this point.
Currently, the GPA of student-athletes is comparable to those of non-athletes at Southwestern. The university is aware that it must not be so consumed by success on the football field as to compromise its admission standards and has promised to maintain admissions quality.
As long as the program is developed in a responsible and prudent manner, the football program will have a profoundly positive effect on all alumni, present and future.
The recent decision by the Board of Trustees to add both football and women’s lacrosse as varsity sports has created considerable controversy in the student populace. Notably, students and faculty were left in the dark until the final decision was suddenly sprung upon them. If these new changes will make the school so much better off, students and faculty should have been consulted in the process.
Similar discussions occurred at Berry College of northwest Georgia, where a similar football installment plan has recently been approved.
A small student protest took place, and it seemed most students against the plan didn’t have a problem so much with football as with installing football on their college campus. They held serious doubts about the ability for the football team to actually generate revenue, andwhether their own campus culture would be negatively impacted.
Berry College resembles Southwestern in its small enrollment size, liberal arts focus, and its status as a Division III school.
At Southwestern, the reaction may very well resemble that of Berry’s, as many small colleges have been making changes in the past few years. Financial concerns present great importance, and the concern that the initial gift money provided by the recent agreement doesn’tcover the full $10-11 million in total costs presents a problem.
Money will be coming in slowly, and debts will continue to pile up as the university takes on this additional challenge. If this risk doesn’t pay off, it would mean a much deeper hole,and wasted time and energy creating facilities that wouldn’t necessarily be utilized to their full potential.
Deemed as one of the less controversial matters in this discussion, women’s lacrosse has simply been eclipsed in the concern over reinstating the football team. This lack of controversy is simply not true. The story told has seemed to suppose that moving women’s lacrosse from a clubsport to a varsity sport would act as a sort of “upgrade” or “progression”; clearly a substantial assumption.
Currently, The University of Dallas is the only other varsity women’s lacrosse team in Texas. If the current club sport were to become a varsity sport, this would equal increased transportation costs of time and money for the team. A women’s lacrosse student’s ability to engage in diverse and stimulating activitiesduring their time would be ever more restrained. Not to mention that the team wasn’t contacteduntil the final decision to begin with, possibly because Title IX laws all but forced women’slacrosse’s inclusion in the process.
Besides the crucial overlooked issue concerning women’s lacrosse, claims of increasedenrollment seem to add appeal to this plan of action. A predicted 120 students would help achieve the enrollment goal of 1,500, but it fails to take into account the numbers of students who would have specifically chosen the university for other reasons.
The decision wouldn’t so much depend on students who specifically didn’t want a football team, so much as the other activities and opportunities that are promoted in the space of football.
Focusing on special weekends also seems inviting, but student-run organizations and activities make events like Homecoming an already inviting opportunity for alumni. In this way,student leadership and teamwork works to present different unique opportunities for the day orweekend, as opposed to a singular event that would drive the show.
A better plan would be to consider the debts currently owed, and how to close the gap. Qualitative improvements in student recruitment would work wonders, such as the improvementof student involvement in visit day programs.Academic quality must also be maintained, as must the inviting campus culture and gender balance.
Another balance may also be interrupted with the new plan, as seen in a potentialincrease of the new football students going into certain departments and programs such asbusiness. This would create another type of balance problem, which must be acknowledged.Gender balance, especially on our campus, remains an important issue to be dealt with.Throwing the women’s lacrosse team under the bus just doesn’t seem like the way to do it.