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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
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
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
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
or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
California State University, Sacramento Public Affairs
6000 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 (916) 278-6156