As the Collegian editor-in-chief who published the first the Improve TU issue back in 2014, I’m very proud to see the overall strength of this year’s edition. I am, however, quite disappointed in article #20: “D1 athletics drains Golden Hurricane.”
The idea of TU moving to a lower level of athletic competition (where less money is spent) is not new. In the early 2000s — when TU football was particularly bad — the idea was taken very seriously. Now it seems to pop up every time the football team has an off year.
It’s also a serious and healthy discussion for the TU community to have. TU invests a lot in athletics, and dropping down to a lower division would be a viable new direction for the university.
Unfortunately, last week’s article was not a serious, or helpful, contribution to this discussion. In particular, I take issue with two major implications of the article: that athletics should make money and that TU athletics has little or no value.
Like basically everything universities do, athletics costs money. What’s different about athletic is that two sports (football and men’s basketball) also generate significant revenue. That makes it easier to ask if athletics as a whole ‘makes a profit.’ But this question sounds a little crazy if applied to other university activities. Does the art department make a profit? What about McFarlin Library? Or the Collegian?
The point of a university is not to make a profit. It’s to do things that are valuable for its students, staff, alumni and other stakeholders. We spend money on athletics because we think it is valuable to the TU community. And despite Guglielmetti’s implication that only student-athletes care about athletics, much of the TU community still finds value in TU sports.
As evidence, I could point to the flurry of negative reactions to the article from alumni on social media, many of whom see D1 athletics as one of the few ways to remain connected to TU after graduation. Or I could cite that Tulsa has one of the highest ratios of football attendance to student population in the country (about 5.5), a far fairer way to compare our students’ interest in sports to schools 15 times our size.
TU spends a lot of money on D1 athletics. When I was sports editor in 2012, we had the second-highest athletic spending per student in the nation (after Notre Dame). That’s why it’s so important that conversations about the future of Tulsa athletics include serious research about the costs involved and acknowledge the many benefits that D1 athletics bring the university community.
Leading this conversation takes a lot of work, but it is literally the job of the Collegian’s sports editor to do this work. I hope in the future our paper can play a more constructive role in facilitating what should be an ongoing conversation about the role of athletics at the University of Tulsa.