Editorial: Should academics or athletics be the true face of U. Missouri?

By The Maneater Editorial Board

Game days at MU are hard to ignore, from everybody and their mother tailgating on campus to the sea of black and gold across Columbia. Students who can’t make it to their morning classes rise early to ensure full game day experiences. Last year, the tradition of tailgating brought on neon shirts and a huge student movement.

The largest admissions jump for MU happened in the year we had a nationally top-ranking football team. And that’s great. Excellent athletic programs are a critical part of attending an excellent university.

However, there is little doubt that, when it comes to financial backing, MU is a school that puts its athletics first, ahead of academics. MU is a part of the Big 12, a conference that is coincidentally known for sports more than academics, and is decidedly staying there despite recent controversy over moving to the Big Ten.

As a seemingly prime example for the “front porch” theory that suggests athletics are what draw people, and thus money, into the university, we have to wonder: is that what we really want?

If MU is to consider itself the best public university in the state, we’re going to need more substance to back up our athletic prowess. According to a 2008 report by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, Big 12 schools spent an average of $13,741 per student in academic spending and $124,054 per student athlete—a nearly nine-fold difference. Is that fair for the vast majority of students who aren’t doubling as star athletes?

The Knight Commission’s report spells out three main goals for college athletic programs including: coming up with better ways to compare academic spending to athletic spending; doling out awards for where academics is put first; and treating college athletes as students first.

There are places where the university could use the funding, and should use the funding, because that’s the core purpose of its existence. 
As of last year, the MU Athletics Department began to give back its annual $1.5 million subsidy to help with construction projects because the department was making higher profits.

Although this is a good start, it’s time for athletics as well as the university to start focusing more on the main cause of the university: education.

This means putting more funding toward things like faculty salary increases, which MU has not seen in two years.

After the summer hype over conference-switching, we would discourage any pressure to push MU into spending more money on things like television contracts for the Big 12 conference, but encourage more self-sufficiency of the Athletics Department in general.

Rather than pouring more money into athletics and letting those athletes pass by with little in the way of academics, as the report suggests, we need to start demanding a better-funded education. The true value of a university comes from what it is teaching, and athletics holding more importance than the foundation of the school isn’t a very valuable lesson.

Read more here: http://www.themaneater.com/stories/2010/7/7/should-academics-or-athletics-be-true-face-mu/
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