Professor Ward ideas on U. athletics prove to be misguided, simple
Letter to the Editor
Professor Ward’s comments in the Sept. 25 Daily Targum shocked me. His opinions article started out mistaken, and ended up horrible. He begins by complaining that Rutgers is known by its mascot. Fellow Big Ten member Michigan is known as the Wolverines, but also as one of the premier research institutions in the world, ranked No. 29 nationally by US News. The UCLA Bruins were No. 23, The University of Virginia Cavaliers were No. 26, and the University of North Carolina Tarheels were No. 30. Just because ones does not approve of the non-academia focused public recognizing a school for its mascot, does not mean it’s shameful.
The name of our stadium is the name of a sponsor, information a cursory Google search would provide anyone with. Those kinds of deals help offset the costs of a stadium he feels so strongly about, yet he mocks it. Rutgers Athletics’ budget shortfall in athletics in 2014 was about $36 million. That is with around $5 million worth of American Athletic Conference revenue. As a fully bought-in member of the Big Ten, we will likely be receiving over $40 million.
The stadium expansion was a gamble that paid off, without which I would doubt any invitation could be expected and which would have left us adrift. But in 2013, the football program that Professor Ward seems to blame for many of his budgetary issues was profitable to the tune of around $2 million. The athletics subsidy is about 2.1 percent of the Rutgers—New Brunswick budget, a 2.1 percent that brings thousands of people to the Hub City on game day, gives Rutgers consistent marketing opportunities nationwide, and helps increase student pride in their University.
But we’ve reached the end of where Professor Ward’s argument may be taken as an argument. Up to this point, he has largely just reiterated the same points heard against college football at the University throughout the years, which I can hardly blame him for, as it’s easy to blame the big target in the room, and they have been periodically justified. But his final paragraph offends every sense of decency I have. It absolutely reeks of arrogance and contempt.
Ward writes, “Unlike major league baseball that relies on self-sustaining minor league training grounds, why should ‘educational’ institutions pay the expenses to develop football players and basketball players only to hand them over to the pros? It makes no sense. Fully compensated sports stars should be recruited as athletes, not as jocks masquerading as scholars (and often failing in this capacity). A faculty member (also an interim academic administrator) who was the faculty advisor to the intercollegiate athletics program a few years back, told me in person that exactly one of the football players (the team has more than 100) and none of the basketball players would have been accepted to Rutgers University on academic merits alone. So one, out of perhaps 170, was the only person who could be called a scholar/athlete.”
Not every student athlete in the football program and basketball program go to the pros. In fact, a relatively small amount do so. But every single one of these students are given the opportunity to complete a degree at a prestigious public university, an opportunity they might not have been able to have without their athletic talents. If Professor Ward’s verbally quoted, largely unverifiable statistic is presumed correct, he’d prefer that those 169 students not be given the opportunity to study here. He believes their academic statistics in high school make them unworthy of the title “student-athlete.”
Being a University student as an athlete is an opportunity afforded to relatively few. Professor Ward seems to clearly prefer that a gate be set up at the entrance and see Rutgers return to private school roots, where the idea of giving a student who is not exceptionally academically talented or whom grew up in a less wealthy area a shot at a world renowned education is perhaps a bit less palatable. Princeton might appeal to that sensibility. Oh yes ... the Princeton Tigers.
Jordan Cohen is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history.