Colleges Cut Football To Save Money -- Is It Worth It?

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."

He writes:

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.

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