Today's Argus editorializes about the costs USD faces if it pursues the recommendations of Inter-Collegiate Athletic Consulting and its own task force to follow SDSU into Division I athletics. the consulting firm's study cautions that the move would require an increase of the athletic budget from the current $5 million a year to $7 million a year.
I find it remarkable that we pour even $5 million into athletics at a public university. Imagine if instead of using that money to support the throwing of balls, we eliminated intercollegiate athletics from the budget, maintained funding for intramural sports and workout facilities to meet the wellness needs of the student body as a whole, and poured the remaining money into academics. Perhaps South Dakota should experiment with converting one of its universities (as a Madison resident, I volunteer DSU) to a purely academic institution. No intercollegiate athletics, no sports scholarships, no money for athletics of any sort that are not open and directly beneficial to every student on campus. Let this one institution focus our money entirely on students who are students first and athletes solely for recreation.
I know SDSU justifies its move to D-I from a marketing perspective: big-time football can generate big-time revenue, not to mention good brand buzz. But USD shouldn't buy into this thinking. If USD is serious about being South Dakota's "academic showcase," President Abbott should send a strong message that athletics should be an afterthought. That's the way it is at the academic showcases of the nation. No great intellectual gun enrolls at Harvard or Yale because of their football teams' records. The same could be true of USD. A university staking its claim to academic superiority should have the courage to put brains over brawn and abandon the rush to Division I. Students with their eyes on the future know that the amount of time they spend at SUD playing ball will have much less impact on their future success than the time they spend hitting the books.
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