Gone are the pigskins from Cal State-Northridge. Hofstra University's yardlines are no longer pocked with cleat marks. And Western Washington University has put to bed its 107-year tradition of brotherly sport.
More colleges are moving to cut football as they confront their respective budget issues. It seems like a reasonable decision: eliminating the costly programs can save schools millions.
But in an op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Idaho State University vice president Gary A. Olson calls that budget fix "shortsighted."
Even a noncompetitive or "losing" team can help the university in multiple ways.
The mere fact of having a football team, for example, is often a plus for students thinking about enrolling. I've had students tell me that although they were not sports fans, they felt good about attending an institution that sponsored a football team. Perhaps it is because football and college life are so intertwined in the American psyche, but whatever the explanation, having a team can help recruit students, and having a winning team can help attract even better students.
Olson also aruges that sports are actually wise investments -- teams engender loyalty in alumni, and thus donations:
When I served as a dean at another institution, I worked closely with donors who had allegiances both to athletics teams and to an academic program. Frequently those donors wanted to support both. I am certain that in many of those cases, we might not have been successful in interesting the donors to give to academic programs were they not first interested in athletics.
What do you think?