Friday, April 13, 2007

Great Letter to the Editor in the Times Recorder

Column: Know the facts about OU dropping sports

Guest Columnist

Ohio University recently dropped men's track and swimming and women's lacrosse from its athletic program. Ohio's administration would have you believe that Title IX caused this situation. A more ingenuous explanation is wanton spending by "revenue" sports and woeful institutional control of the athletic budget.

Although I coach "orphan sports," college football is my favorite, especially bowl season. Many labor under a misconception that big money is made from bowl games. Big money is made only at bowls that start with "BCS."

Ohio appeared in a bowl game, but spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more than they earned for the appearance. Because Ohio was in a bowl, Coach (Frank) Solich brought his team back to campus after Thanksgiving break and since the dorms were closed, housed and fed them in the Ohio University Inn (which is not owned by Ohio) one to a room until the bowl game. This is in addition to housing players in a hotel before all home football games.
Taxpayers should note that Ohio spends an average of $23,000 per athlete (above and beyond the scholarship) in basketball, around $13,000 per football player, and less than $400 per track athlete. Ohio flies to most of its MAC away basketball games. For these road games, Ohio sends an empty bus from Athens to transport the players from the airport. Next time you sign that tuition check, remember basketball and football lost around $10,500 a day in 2006.

Cutting track cost Ohio money. The NCAA contributed $22,000 to Ohio for men's track. They have women's track (men's and women's were combined) and cannot cut coaches and with men's cross country intact, they cannot cut scholarship money (they only have seven). The difference between money spent on track outside of salaries is over $3,000 less than the NCAA contribution. The same is true of swimming, which was "bare bones." Eliminating men's swimming saved only the cost of six scholarships!

This administration has no concept of fiscal reality. Football lost $1.9 million last season - and the basketball program lost nearly as much. The rest of the sports offered at the university lost a combined $1.9 million. If you look at it this way, Ohio has no "revenue sports."

One member of the athletic counsel, in a conversation with a student athlete affected by cuts, reportedly asked the swimmer, "why don't you just participate in another sport?"

Intercollegiate athletics can be a formative part of university life. Many students attend for the Division I athletic experience, and most, "go pro in something other than sports." Few have "full rides" and perks of the "big two" and compete for the love of sport.

Men's programs cut were leaders in campus in GPA and graduation rates. Students such as these go on to lead prosperous lives and become great alumni. Now they will be great alumni elsewhere. Maybe your child will be among them.

If what I have written disturbs you, don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself. Once you discover that Ohio spends YOUR money like it is their JOB, maybe you will disturb someone who will do something about it!

Herb Fitzer is head boys and girls track coach, and head cross country coach at Zanesville High School. This is a copy of the letter he sent to Ohio University.

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