President Fong expressed in the Nov. 2011 President’s Perspective newsletter that Ursinus athletes are “students first.”
In my experience, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, and I believe the athletes are doing themselves a great disservice.
Due to overwhelming response to this article,
The Grizzly has posted a staff editorial.
For the skeptics out there, let’s look at Ursinus’ sports obsession by the numbers.
Two of the eight pages in The Grizzly, including one of two color pages, are dedicated to sports.
Ursinus Athletics (@ucathletics) has 676 Twitter followers. Compare that with 14 for The Grizzly (@UrsinusGrizzly), 13 for the admissions office (@UC_Admission) and 65 for To Write Love on Her Arms Ursinus UChapter (@UrsinusTWLOHA). Heck, the school itself barely has more Twitter followers — 732 for @UrsinusCollege.
The yearbook featured a two-page spread for each varsity sport. Greek organizations got one page each. In contrast, clubs were squeezed three to a page and occupied a total of four pages. Academic departments were squeezed four to a page.
All told, sports action appeared on 38 percent of The Ruby’s pages.
That number is commensurate with last year’s estimate from Laura Moliken, which was cited by President Fong in the same President’s Perspective email, suggesting that roughly 34 percent of Ursinus students participate in varsity athletics.
On that note, the tuition money of these students can’t be ignored. While some receive financial aid, I believe there are more than enough bench-warmers to cover that cost, and with donors thrown in, the school is likely coming out ahead.
When President Fong cited the field hockey player with a 3.6 GPA in his newsletter, he’s unintentionally highlighting how abnormal that is for an athlete.
It’s a point of contention I often hold with my dad, who’s worked as an athletic director for decades. He once texted me, “Just got back from a banquet honoring athletes with 3.2 GPAs.”
It was his way of justifying the presence of athletes at academic institutions. I shot back, “I have a 3.7 and nobody’s throwing a banquet for me.”
I feel bad for these students on some levels. Many of them neglect to plan out their next step after athletics. Sometimes it seems like they don’t think about anything else.
Anyone who’s been in classes outside of the science department knows that whenever a new project is announced, the inevitable question that follows is, “Can we do sports?”
On the other hand, maybe I should smile and nod. After all, those 34 percent are like a freebie. The non-sports types like me don’t have to worry one bit about landing in the bottom third of the class, and we’re at a “prestigious” private school.
Solutions to this dilemma are plenty. I’m in favor of institutions of higher education, especially smaller colleges, working on an agreement to eliminate varsity athletics altogether.
I’m not advocating that college students should abandon sports entirely. Intramural sports are wonderful—they present the same competition and learning opportunities with none of the cost associated with travel.
Intramural sports at Ursinus receive a miniscule budget when compared to the varsity teams, and most of the intramural budget probably goes to the jocks who “referee” (read: do nothing) during the matches.
The student-athletes must take some responsibility, but the culture at the top must also change.
It’s not an accident that multiple photos of the football team are perennial fixtures on the front page of the school’s website.
When President Fong signs each email with “Go Bears!,” he might be trying to express his support for all Ursinus students unilaterally, but he can’t help but say it in sports terminology.
Before an away game at Juniata, Ursinus football players were let out of class at 11:30 a.m. My understanding is that the professors were told that doing so would allow the football players to eat and practice at home, thus saving money.
I have a new cost-cutting idea: how ‘bout we all don’t go to class at all? It’ll save us each roughly $50,000 a year!
Ursinus is a school for the jocks, by the jocks. Until that changes, The U is letting down its students—or, at least, 34 percent of them.
*This article was printed with the companion article “Ursinus Sports Teams Need More Support.” The Grizzly Staff would like to encourage readers to check out both articles.