Volume 92, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


Mustangs eye 23rd OUA title

Athletic community worried about cuts

Student groups a little trigger happy

Student groups a little trigger happy

Misguided students have stolen the starter's pistol and are preparing to shoot themselves and Western's intercollegiate athletics program in the foot.

In a sprint to cut back on student fees, two groups on campus have proposed a reduction in athletic funding. The Society of Graduate Students wants to put $19 back in the pockets of the students, while the University Students' Council, representing undergraduates, wants $12. In total, the Western athletic department is looking at the possibility of a $282,000 cut-back.

The argument supporting slicing and dicing the athletic budget is due to Western students' inability to support the athlete minority on campus. Western is about academics, not athletics, some argue. Another complaint could be student debt should be cut in any manner possible, including athletics.

Forgotten are the many benefits athletics bring to the Western community, in relation to the pocket change it takes away. The Mustang athletic program is about pride and competition. Cutting back on the life blood which keeps the program running would be down-playing the importance of these two characteristics.

This is not just an issue at Western. Carleton University was forced recently to axe their football program, while Bishop's University bid farewell to men's soccer. The reason was simple – cutbacks. Students decided trimming athletic budgets and losing varsity teams was a better idea than postponing the purchase of more comfortable chairs for the classroom and glossy covers for university manuals.

University is not just about academics. It is about opening your mind and developing a pride in your institution. Athletes learn more than ball handing skills through sports. They learn strategies and cooperation to take into the real world in both social and professional environments.

Entertainment value may be the deciding factor for a team's survival. If the cuts go through there is little doubt the football program will survive. Corporate sponsorship and ticket costs will ensure that. The teams which hold the spotlight within the London community will need to scramble for cash but should find enough from sponsors looking to associate their name with a high profile team. Western basketball players will continue to dunk – as long as the Mustang logo becomes crowded with corporate names and slogans.

Other successful but less spectator friendly Mustang sports like curling or field hockey, on the other hand, may not withstand the pressure. Darwin Semotiuk, Western's chair of intercollegiate athletics, has admitted there will not be enough money to go around.

A lower quality program will also mean lower quality athletes. A small coaching staff and travel restrictions will deter serious high school athletes who are looking for the best place to hone their talents from coming to Western. This school will no longer be able to dominate the university circuit. We will become a replica of the Brock Badger program, which celebrates every fifth place provincial finish.

All of this for less than $20 – the cost of one night on the town or a few pairs of socks. It is a small price to pay for a strong athletic program which promotes pride and courage.

Ian Ross can be reached at gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

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Copyright The Gazette 1999