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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

November 18, 2003

Campus huddles on future of athletics

Noting that the weather is the only topic more talked about than sports, David Raske, chair of the Athletics Task Force, led a group of nearly 100 students, faculty, staff and alumni through the first of two public forums on the future of campus athletic programs last week.

The second forum will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 18 in the Union Hinde Auditorium.

Results from the forums, as well as interviews with coaches and other individuals with a stake in the program including elected officials and community leaders, will be incorporated into a report to President Alexander Gonzalez. The task force, comprised of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community representatives, expects to finish the report by the end of the semester.

The forums center around five questions: What is the role of intercollegiate athletics at the University? What are the benefits of a successful athletics program? Which facilities need improvement? What issues regarding conference affiliation and community interests need to be addressed? What should be the future direction of the athletics program?

At the first forum, most of the discussion focused on the first two questions, the role and the benefits of an athletics program. Several participants suggested that an athletics program gives a university an identity, something that was seen as lacking by some who took part in the President’s Town Hall meetings earlier in the semester.
“An athletics program can give the campus and community something to cheer about. It makes the University more visible,” said one student.

Another student agreed, saying, “Public images are addressed, for better or worse, by a University’s athletics program. If you want name recognition or branding, athletics can do that.”

Associate athletic director Mark Livingston, who works in the marketing arm of intercollegiate athletics, pointed to the payoff from Gonzaga University’s recent basketball triumphs in the NCAA tournament. He said that success in athletics boosted the university itself, leading to an increase in student applications.

But some questioned the cost. Biology department faculty member Bob Metcalf suggested the need to identify the true costs and who’s paying for them, noting that the students who voted for the 1995 athletics fee referendum are no longer here. He also expressed the opinion that some funds that had been allocated to athletics could be used instead to fund classes that are being cut.

Pam Hubbard, a former student who worked on the athletics fee referendum, says she thought once the students voted to show they supported athletics, the community would follow. “The University doesn’t need to throw more money at athletics, but there needs to be more community involvement,” she says.

Athletics also were identified as a community draw. Music faculty member Jeff Edom, who also directs the marching band, says the two most visible faces a university has are athletics and the performing arts. “They have a tremendous impact on the community’s vision of what the campus is. Athletics gets people to come on campus.
They have the ability to reach out to the broad spectrum of community and bring people to campus who might never have come to campus otherwise.”

When the topic turned to facilities, the responses were less than enthusiastic. Most campus venues were broadly panned, with many of the speakers saying the question of whether CSUS athletic facilities need improvement was “obvious.” One booster summed it up, “The facilities are inadequate and the basketball arena is the leader in inadequate. And football is next.”

A former student athlete, now a grad student, speculated “Because of the way facilities are, coaches have settled for mediocre.” And orientation staff member Mary Sheppard, noting that the athletic facilities are where both coaches and athletes do their work, asked, “Are we providing an effective work environment?”

Many brought up a potential arena/wellness center, an idea a campus committee is exploring. Some noted that the arena could be a venue for other events that might bring in money while others noted it could help ease overcrowding at Yosemite Hall.

Student athletes also spoke of the pride and responsibility that come with modern facilities. A member of the baseball team said that in their upgraded facility they posted their best record in several years. A basketball player agreed, “If facilities are built, the athletes need to provide their end of the bargain. If they bring in an arena, we have to bring in people.”

Those who addressed the conference affiliation issue expressed support for remaining part of the Big Sky conference because of the potential to vie for a national football championship and a shot at an automatic bid to the NCAA basketball tournament. But one forum participant who works at UC Davis said the competitive atmosphere in the community would be improved if CSUS and UC Davis were in same conference, the Big West.
In addition to this week’s second forum, the task force is also accepting feedback electronically. Comments can be made by filling out an online questionnaire at www.csus.edu/news/taskforcequestions.htm or by emailing athletic_taskforce@csus.edu.

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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu