What the athletes get from you

If you were a full time student this year, you paid $507.50 to the department of intercollegiate athletics this year.

Surprised? The money, enough to buy a new laptop, supplied 65.5 percent of the money needed for about 430 student athletes to participate in 18 varsity sports, including football, hockey, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, among others.

In total, $8.5 million was collected from students as part of their general fee, which also includes another $22.81 in stadium, ice arena and sports field charges.

Students completing a co-op at a business more than 50 miles away pay $35.53 a semester. Part time students are also charged, about $25 a credit hour.

With ever-increasing tuition costs in the face of dwindling state and federal support for higher education, students with little interest in the sports are asking: What do I get out of this?

“My life would definitely be better if I didn’t have to pay it,” said business marketing senior Laura Cook. “But if I didn’t pay is that a better solution?”

Students paying the fee are admitted to the home games of football, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball and soccer – events the public are charged to attend.

“Literally millions of people are consumers of the NCAA Tournament and intercollegiate athletics,” University President Sidney Ribeau said. “So it provides a venue for entertainment for our students.”

Ticket sales bring in only $1.04 million a year or 8 percent of the athletics department’s $13 million budget.

Going to games is one benefit, but according to University administrators and students, even those totally unaware of the varsity teams’ existence benefit from them.

“It contributes, in many ways that aren’t real obvious, to the overall spirit of the campus and the sense of pride in the campus,” he said.

The director of the department of intercollegiate athletics, Paul Krebs, recently announced a move to the University of New Mexico after seven years at the University.

According to his biography on the department’s Web site, royalties from licensing have increased 200 percent in his seven years at the University. He said that as the University advances, athletics contributes to that momentum.

“When I got here people didn’t wear orange and brown,” he said of the improvements in the University since Ribeau’s arrival. “That is a tell tale sign that we are making Bowling Green the best it can be. [Intercollegiate athletics are] helping the university move forward and advance.”

According to Athletics Communication Director J.D. Campbell, one reason for advancement is that without intercollegiate athletics Bowling Green would have much less of a name: “What would it cost for BGSU to buy two hours of time this Sunday on ESPN?”

According to Krebs, the teams have been on national television 12 times in the past three years. They have also been ranked or praised in several publications, including Sports Illustrated and nearly every major newspaper.

The increased exposure can also lead to benefits for area families and business owners, as Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce executive director Elaine Skoog pointed out.

“You are bringing people to spend,” she said. “They will use our shops, our restaurants; they will boost our economic situation.”

Whenever the University benefits, she said, the community will as well. “We are part of each other. We are what we are because of each other.”

And, of course, there are benefits for the approximately 430 student athletes themselves. By dividing the department’s entire budget, one finds spending to be more than $30,000 an athlete.

Thirty-five percent of the department’s $13 million budget goes towards scholarships providing some athletes their only way to finance a college education.

According to Ribeau, the athlete graduation rate far exceeds that of the average student. They also learn a host of other valuable skills and values, including discipline, teamwork, cooperation and learning how to work to achieve a common goal.

Gymnastics co-captain and senior Jessica Bradley agreed, adding that she also gets to compete in a sport she loves, develops intense time management skills and builds strong bonds with her teammates.

According to Krebs, athletes also form strong bonds with the University.

“Some of the largest donors to the university have been former athletes,” he said.

Those massive, multi-million dollar donations led to the construction of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union and the establishment of the Dallas/Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

The athletics program also inspired donations necessary to make the Sebo Athletic Center a possibility. Ground broke on the new “front door” to Doyt Perry Stadium last semester.

The three-story, 42,500 square feet center will have modern sports medicine, rehabilitation and strength-training facilities and a balcony for viewing games. It will also have coach offices, teaching spaces, other meeting rooms and a video editing room.

However, a 2001 study of 90,000 students and alumni nationwide published in the book “Game of Life” by William Bowen and James Shulman found that winning teams do not result in more donations to universities.

If that is the case, would the money be better spent in areas that have direct benefit to the majority of students?

The amount of general fee money being distributed to student organizations by the student budget committee is 13 times, $7.9 million less than that spent on athletics.

Dance education majors Meghan Gillette and Jessica Priehs feel the money spent on the teams should be going to them, but with the spending at over $30,000 an athlete they’re wondering: Where’s the better dance floors, costumes, lighting and other tools for their performances.

“A little bit of money to us is a lot,” Priehs said. “We just get frustrated because there are things that we definitely need to have that we can’t have.”

Others, such as Nate Bishop and Natalie Maschari, feel the University should tell students more about the charge.

“My reaction is that I would want to know what it is used for,” Maschari said. “As long as they are responsible I guess it’s OK.”

But cutting any sport can be disastrous for the University, leading to a host of articles, columns, letters to the editor and emotional criticisms and complaints from community members, alumni and athletes for years.

Such was the response when the University was forced to cut four sports in the spring of 2002 under financial pressure and Title IX, because of a rule requiring a certain ratio of male to female athletes.

Athletes in the program were forced to find new ways to fund their education or compete in the sport they love.

“There were some people that were tremendously affected by it,” Krebs said. “Any major decision in the life of the university there is going to be emotions.”