SFAC should teach Athletics
"Who watched the Memphis game?" Senior
Associate Athletics Director Larry Leckonby asked last week as he started
presentation to the Student Fees Advisory
Dean of Students and ex-officio participant
William Munson and business professor Keith Cox were the only SFAC participants
responded, sheepishly raising their hands.
"Well, it seems like a room of non-believers,"
Leckonby jokingly asserted.
But the fact that student interest in the
UH Athletics Department and its various programs has diminished significantly
since the heyday
of its more successful years is no laughing
matter. It's a reality.
The reasons depend on who is asked and
what corresponding side of the debate they align themselves with; some
students should support their teams through
lackluster performance years while others contend that Athletics drains
money that could
essentially further their educational
Leckonby himself said, "I'd be the first
to say it: (Athletics) isn't nearly as important, not nearly as important,
as any academic endeavor
Though Leckonby repeated himself for emphasis,
it's not as if his purpose for appearing before SFAC was to dissuade it
money to the Athletics Department. In
fact, on behalf of the department, Leckonby requested an unprecedented
$3.7 million, or about
one-third of the entire student fee pot.
No other group asked for so much.
Since the average UH student isn't particularly
fond of attending athletic events, or more usually is too busy to enjoy
doing so, where
does the Athletics Department get off
asking for so much? The request is based on precedent and tradition.
For years, SFAC has bought into the department's
rhetoric and has granted it what it wants. SFAC, as a state-mandated advisory
board, is made up of seven voting students
and two voting faculty members. (It should be noted that all seven students
on this year's
committee were male undergraduates.) The
purpose of the board is to give students a dominant voice in building up
the programs they
perceive to benefit them while limiting
those they deem ineffective.
Traditionally, nearly every program asks
for more money, which is usually warranted because the amount of student
rises with increasing enrollment.
But this year it is predicted that enrollment
will be static.
As this journalist saw it, the Athletics
Department's verbal presentation to SFAC was insulting. Not because of
anything Leckonby said,
but because of what he didn't say and
how he didn't say it.
Unlike other groups that arguably benefit
students in a more direct way, Leckonby didn't bother to give his presentation
via the now
cliched PowerPoint presentation. Furthermore,
he didn't bother to painstakingly explain how the requested $3.7 million
would be used,
as did other presenters who were more
thoroughly drilled by SFAC members.
Leckonby's presentation consisted of jokes,
talk of the philosophy of his new boss, Dave Maggard, and a long-dwindling
the real story behind last semester's
He also talked of how giving his department
what it wants coincides with national trends to treat athletics as an investment
makes a profit.
He mentioned how Ivy leaguers Princeton
and Harvard have some of the biggest athletic deficits in the country.
consisted of fuzzy math and an explanation
of how expensive the female soccer and softball ($400,000 each) programs
necessary, in concordance with 1972's
federally mandated Title IX.
Last Friday, during Vice President for
Student Affairs Elwyn C. Lee's verbal thoughts on the competing presentations,
a senior biology
major wondered aloud about how the Athletics
Department would take bad news from the committee.
The brave student representative was Ed
Tulin, a presidential appointee to the committee, and his idea was to reduce
department's base budget to 34 percent
of the student fees and to allocate on a one-time basis the other 1 percent.
I advocate a firmer, sterner approach.
The Athletics Department does not deserve a limp slap on the wrist and
SFAC does not deserve
its reputation and credibility to be tarnished
by such a weak reprimand.
I propose that SFAC live up to its responsibilities
to all fee-paying students and trim back the athletic department's student-fee
to 20 percent of the entire pot. This
is still a large number, and a compassionate compromise.
The rest of the money should be distributed
to the 30 organizations and departments that strive to better the educational