Monday, December 16, 2013

Michael Benson: Athletes pay more than fair share; university benefits from spotlight

EKU President Mike Benson responds to the Herald-Leader editorial, "Athletics are valued over academics at Kentucky colleges" Benson has expressed an interest in seeing EKU move up to the NCAA's top football division called FBS. The move would cost the school millions.

Read more here:
This from the Herald-Leader:
Despite what some may argue or what some statistics might suggest, it is not that Eastern Kentucky University values athletics over academics.

On the contrary, investing in our student-athletes — who represent a relatively small percentage of our overall student population but also make up our most diverse student demographic — is a sound financial and institutional investment.

The return on that investment in these student-athletes more than justifies the resources expended.
Consider a few statistics relative to our Division I athletic programs at EKU: our student-athlete minority population nearly triples that of our student body minority population at 31 percent to 11 percent. Further, the student-athlete retention and graduation rate are nearly double our non-student- athlete population.

We have 141 student-athletes on full scholarship. Considering we have 360 student-athletes on our Richmond campus, the bulk are either walk-ons or are given partial stipends, meaning these student-athletes pay their own way to come to EKU while contributing substantially to our overall sustainability.

These 219 student-athletes were responsible for nearly $4 million in tuition and fees last year alone.
But on top of the financial return from having these student-athletes on our campus — and the social benefit that accrues to all of us in having an educated populace — consider the collateral impact our athletics programs have for good in myriad unquantifiable ways.

Last month, I traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., to see the EKU Colonels compete in the NCAA Cross Country National Championship. Our men's squad had just come off its first-ever Southeast Regional crown, defeating perennial powerhouses like Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, Clemson and North Carolina.

Where else can EKU go toe-to-toe with schools with much larger student populations and significantly more resources and compete to be the very best in the entire country? I assure you there is extreme value in that for our university and its 16,000-plus outstanding students.

Moreover, athletics is a catalyst for social interaction among students, alumni and friends. The value of athletic participation goes much deeper than games won or championships earned or dollars accumulated. The branding and public relations associated with a good athletic program far outweigh the cost.

In the final analysis, an investment in student-athletes is about giving access to post-secondary education to men and women who might not otherwise have that opportunity. We will never be apologetic for providing access and opportunity for students to succeed at Eastern Kentucky University.

As is the case with all of our scholarships, those awarded to student-athletes provide countless men and women the chance to attend our institution who otherwise may not be able to do so.

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Anonymous said...

He talks about it being a "sound financial investment" but never really touches on that point. I think anyone could quickly see that the amount of money spent on EKU athletics versus how much it funding it brings in is a losing proposition.

Not sure what his point is about 219 student athletes bringing in 4 million in tuition and fees. The same would be true of 219 tuition/fee paying students her to study law enforcement or business or nursing or education.

As for competing with "Virgina, Virgina Tech, Duke, Clemson and North Carolina", seems like a university and its president would be more intersted in competing in a student enrollment and scholarly achievement sense.

Finally, if diverstiy and opportunity for students with low SES backgrounds are some sort of justification, then why not just provide those scholarships for that purpose for all students who fit that critera instead of exclusive to student athletes? As it is now this diversity and opportunity seems to be more of a quid pro quo arrangement based on young people providing the university some sort of sports marketing/entertainment benefit. If we really want to bring diversity to the campus and support low income students, then why would we add the burden of hours of practice, travel and competition to their burden as students?

I like Dr. Benson, but not a very compelling argument for a university which requires its workers to pay to park next to the outdated buildings in which they were hired to work.

Anonymous said...

If it is such fiscally great investment, then why did we have to cut positions and try to realign the budget last spring? Folks probably don't remember but the football stadium was not sold to legislature as being a sport facility but a classroom facility years ago (it just happens to have seats on one side of it). What happened to that - insides rooms are decaying and the football team never fills half the seats for its six games.
Similarly Alumni never fills beyond a quarter full for games and with the exception of graduations twice a year, it is rarely filled except for district basketball tournament finals. Heck, the lost the university and community tons of dollars and exposure by running all A classic out of town with increased fee.

Athletics might make money but like all things, you have to be smart about it - not exactly a strong track record of that here.