Saturday, September 29, 2007

Rebuttal Letter from Track/CC Alumni

I disagree with a recent letter concerning what ails the OU Athletic Department.
What ails OU Athletics is symptomatic of what ails most Division I collegiate athletic departments, not to mention our country as a whole these days. And that is the sense of entitlement and ‘I deserve better’ attitude that so many coaches, administrators, and some athletic supporters have. The common denominator in all this is money. It’s always ‘show me the money’ or ‘we need more money’ to be successful. And if success comes, it’s always ‘we need more money to continue being successful’. Where are the moral limits in such spending? It seems to me that the OU Athletic Department has become a run-away freight train fueled by special interest.

The bottom line is that Ohio’s sports cuts decision has significantly decreased the opportunity for local student-athletes and minorities to receive educational value and potentially earn scholarship money to attend college via sports like track and field. Track and field is the third most popular sport in Ohio (and the nation) in terms of participation levels. And anyone who read the sports pages of their local papers during the last few months probably noticed numerous photos and articles of the diverse group of students participating as track and field athletes. During the past five years there have been sixteen athletes from local schools (within half an hour drive) on the OU Track & Field team, and five of these students were from Athens County and received athletic-scholarship money. That’s as much as all the other sport teams combined! Who would want that kind of opportunity to be denied of the local students in future generations? Not only are many of the track athletes of local origin, but some of the coaches are as well. Of the two current part-time coaches for the women’s (and former men’s) track team one is a graduate of Vinton County High School, and the other coach serves as a junior high math teacher for Trimble Local School District. Both of these coaches are paid around $10,000 per year (less than the $12,000 bonus paid to the Head Football Coach for winning the MAC East Division!) but yet do a great job serving as “full-time” coaches.

Perhaps it’s time to ‘down-size’ or ‘right-size’ the men’s football and basketball teams to save money and produce success! Did any OU administrators consider that idea? A coach or athlete who cares more about money than about the love of the game and community will never be truly successful. Big-shot coaches and administrators now-a-days have no vested interest in their local communities. They all anticipate moving on to higher paying jobs at other universities the first chance they get, or threatening to leave their school if they don’t get a hefty raise for a good season. Playing the ‘money game’ in regards to retaining quality coaches is a game that OU is never going to win. The funds are going to be inadequate no matter how many sports you cut and the demographics to substantially increase those funds simply aren’t there. There are great coaches out there who aren’t expensive, but it takes intelligence and skill to find them.

In other words, not big-shots, just coaches with great knowledge of the fundamentals of their sport and who have had success with limited resources at the NCAA Division II or III, or even high school level. More importantly is that these coaches provide educational value to their athletes and don’t feel ‘trapped’ in Athens or at Ohio University. They need to truly love the local communities, the people in them, and the school, not just say that they do - until the next better job comes along!

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