Friday, November 16, 2007

Support needed for more than just the Basketball Team

This is the unabridged version of an article that I wrote for the 11/14/07 issue of The Davidsonian. The article was published as the staff editorial.

“It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!”

That semi-corny exclamation has been pronounced by many of the school’s leaders over the course of this fall semester. With a new president in place, a new financial aid plan that has eliminated loans and a stellar men’s basketball program that has broken onto the basketball scene, Davidson College is taking great pride in its brand right now.

The Wildcat Red and Black gives Davidson students, faculty, staff and alumni something to be proud of as the USA Today proclaimed to the country and the world that Davidson College was a very special place where top-notch academics and top-notch athletics go hand in hand. Men’s basketball has given the college a prime opportunity to convince the whole nation that academics, honor, integrity, teamwork and exceptional athletic accomplishment can all coexist in harmony.

However, not everything is so warm and fuzzy down in the Davidson athletic department. While the student-athletes and the coaches are all smiles about Davidson’s national attention and recognition, the employees that make everything click are being pushed to the max.

As Davidson basketball has attracted more and more fans, the demand for better game operations, brand marketing, media releases, broadcasting technology and overall efficiency has pushed an already underfunded athletic department to its limits.

In the past 10 years, Davidson’s administration has recognized the need to make the college nationally appealing by upgrading campus facilities, investing more in the faculty and making student loans a thing of the past. It is once again time to turn our eyes to athletics.

While every constituent group on campus, from the club sports teams to the Union cafĂ© workers to the sophomores down the hill, can make compelling cases for why the administration should give them more money, it is our opinion that the athletic department’s support staff should be a high priority.

With the descent of the national media on the men’s basketball program, Davidson’s sports information department has had to give less time to the 20 other varsity sports on campus to make sure that all media demands are met. With advertisers and television media outlets calling for Wildcat marketing materials, the athletics department marketing office (which doubles as the head of game operations, merchandise and broadcast technology) has had to enlist the help of an already overworked staff to meet Davidson’s marketing and advertising needs. The athletic ticket office, the physical plant support staff and even the coaching staffs of the athletic teams have all been called upon to go above and beyond their salaries and job descriptions to keep up with the rising tide of men’s basketball hoopla.

At this point, even students have been negatively affected as Fountain Walker has called on the student population to move their cars literally off campus to make room for burgeoning attendance for men’s basketball games.

The college needs to develop a strategic plan to deal with parking issues, understaffed departments and all of the other demands that major college basketball puts on an institution.

This funding should go towards branding Davidson in the sports world and reaping the economic benefits of a basketball team that everyone wants a piece of. The profit margin of this investment would more than recoup the initially diverted funds.

When Appalachian State beat Michigan to start the college football season, the University’s athletic department was swamped with people who wanted a piece of the action. The same thing happened with George Mason a few years ago. Davidson has the opportunity to do that this year and we can’t be caught napping with our pants down.

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