Volume 90, Issue 90

Friday, March 14, 1997



Column: Horse Shit

By James Pugsley
Gazette Staff

With $2.4 million, 22 sports and 35 teams to handle, it isn't difficult to see how important Intercollegiate Athletics is to Western, one of the biggest sporting universities in the country.

However, as the 1997 campaign wraps up with the women's basketball team's drive for the national championships this weekend in Thunder Bay, it's time to analyze the effectiveness of money management for Mustang sports.

Out of the $2.4 million decided upon by Western's Board of Governors, 70 per cent comes from student fees – roughly $1.7 million. This chunk of money is divided throughout Western's teams based on the judgment of Intercollegiate Athletics directors – in consideration of which sports will attract the most people and generate the most revenue.

Thus, as few can argue the importance of football to this university, it is no surprise it receives the most funding of any athletics program.

But what happens when the football team doesn't attract fans and it is still receiving more money than the other major teams such as volleyball, basketball or hockey that are representing Western atop the standings but are without fan support as well?

Let's see what would happen if the money spent on hiring ex-CFLers to coach the football team was spent on getting ex-professional coaches for three or four other varsity teams. As well, how about reducing football money to further promote the hockey, basketball and volleyball games that starve for fans every year.

Face it, Western students love a winner. So let's get some. If more teams have potential to thrive, there is a greater chance to increase school spirit – the most important ingredient for bringing back football audiences.

And in regards to generating revenue, IA must learn to evolve with the times. There may be good argument in putting a good football team on the field at Western and the potential revenue it could produce, but it isn't happening – students don't attend football games anymore! So why spend $1.7 million of students' money to not attract students to the games?

And as soon as the university's 30,000 potential customers stop caring about Western's number one sport, what reasons do they have to care about any other lesser-promoted teams?

It seems Intercollegiate Athletics' philosophy surrounds the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto. Unfortunately, the popularity of football is broken at Western, but IA can not see the fracture because there is a 70 year old pillar of tradition blocking the view.

There needs to be financial restructuring to incorporate the growth and promotion of more sports in exchange for the sacrifice currently made by all Mustangs for football.

Bottom line: the focus still has to remain on the sports with the most potential to generate revenue – such as hockey, basketball, volleyball or even rugby and soccer.

But set up a system where the three Mustang teams with the best CIAU results receive an increase in funding and promotion the following year to see if it will inspire a new tradition. Limit it to only two consecutive seasons to avoid a hierarchy.

Three properly-marketed teams are better than one struggling monster-team. It's time for the distribution of the university's intercollegiate sports budget to evolve – before the university's Board of Governors has it dissolved.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997