TULANE SHOULD LOSE THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT

by Ben Kleinman

I love sports. When I was little I was a HUGE Met's fan and some of my fondest memories are seeing Dwight (now Doc) Gooden pitch in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (the one that they're going to knock down now that they finally finished paying for it) and listening on the radio as Bill Buckner and the Red Sox lost the World Series to the Mazing Mets of '86. And I remember watching the Celtics in the NBA finals as I pretended to understand what my Dad and Uncle were talking about when they mentioned zones and posting up and illegal defense.

It's been said that life is not a spectator sport. I realized this truism while still but a lad, and I participated in sports too. I was a damn fine goalie until I skipped a grade and suddenly everyone could kick the ball a whole lot faster than I could move to block it. I played left field and third base and could switch hit -- I struck out equally well from both sides of the plate. I enjoy running, playing ultimate Frisbee, tossing around the football, and doing just about anything that makes you sweat.

So don't misunderstand, I love sports.

I also love Tulane. I could go on and on about the opportunities Tulane offers, about the leadership possibilities, about the accessibility of professors, about the quality of the education, and about the character and diversity of the student body. But you guys all go to school here also.

What I am about to say is not a criticism of the athletes or a denigration of Tulane. This is a criticism of a system at Tulane, and a system at universities everywhere. Hopefully, it will be taken as it was intended, constructively.

So don't misunderstand, I love Tulane.

However, Tulane is a school. To be precise, a university. And for better of for worse, the business of running an athletic department seems to be quite antithetical to the business of running an academic institution. I've always hankered to call for the liberation of Tulane from varsity athletics, and an article several weeks ago in the Hullabaloo has compelled me to act. It seems that a plan to financially separate the athletic department from the rest of the university underestimated the expense of running a varsity athletic program. By how much you ask? A mere two years and several million dollars, if memory serves.

So I say we shut down the athletic department.

What does varsity athletics do for Tulane? No doubt it is somewhat useful. Students get to participate in sports they love at a competitive level. Fans get to cheer on their friends and root for good old TU. And what's wrong with that? Nothing.

Students should have the opportunity to play sports and students should have the opportunity to cheer them on. But Tulane should not be hiring athletes and should not be spending millions of dollars on athletic facilities and staffs. Tulane should not serve as a minor league team for the NFL or the NBA. Tulane should not give scholarship money to athletes because they are athletes. The system is wrong. The system should change. Eamon "the 375,000 dollar man" Kelly should change it.

The first intelligent response to my impassioned plea for freedom was "no one will come to a school without varsity sports". It's a valid point -- varsity sports are attractive. They're flashy and nice and a main selling point at many schools. But how many of you came to Tulane for the golf team? Or the tennis teams? Or the football team? Or the basketball teams? Or the volleyball team? I'm not picking on the performance of the teams themselves, because most of them are damn fine teams, but I'm just wondering how many people would not have come to Tulane if we did not have varsity athletics? If more than 10% of the students are here because of varsity athletics I'd be startled.

We should not abolish sports at Tulane. Nor should we stop spending money on sports. Club sports deserve at least the amount of money TSTV receives. I'm merely saying we should not take money from the University budget to spend on chartered flights for the football team or on snazzy letter jackets for baseball players. No doubt these items are nice. No doubt the players might deserve them (in the sense that if they were doing the same thing and weren't doing it for Tulane and the NCAA, they'd be making oodles of money). But that's not what I and my parents are paying for. I don't want to get a letter saying tuition is going up 6% because we're hiring a new center for the basketball team.

If you want to play sports, join a club team. Collect dues, file for a club sport allowance, jump in a van, and play away. But if all you want to do is play sports, go professional or join a league. Don't come to Tulane, because Tulane is not a training camp for athletes. It's a training camp for students. The two are not mutually exclusive, but the academics needs to come first.

So what's the difference between a varsity sport and a club sport? You could ask the brand new varsity women's soccer team (I didn't -- heaven forbid I do research for an article). Essentially, the difference is money. Varsity teams get scholarships. Clubs receive an allotment from ASB and can collect dues. Varsity teams get meal allowances. Clubs can brown bag it. Varsity teams get really cool and expensive uniforms and jackets. Clubs usually assess members a few bucks for a T-shirt. Varsity teams can charter buses and jets. Clubs can use an ASB van.

Eliminate the athletic scholarships, eliminate the expensive staffs, eliminate the fluff and pampering. Build a nice field that we can use for soccer and football (if any teams deserve a decent place to play on campus and a cheering crowd at their games, the soccer teams do). Start treating sports as a part of life and not a way of life. Anything that detracts from Tulane's ability to deliver an excellent and affordable education is excess baggage and should be jettisoned. Based on the multi-million dollar hole that the University is digging the athletic department out of, the athletic department should be cut from the Tulane team.


Last modified: 1995-96 academic year?