Point-Counterpoint: Are UI athletics overshadowing academics?

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa Football Legacy Campaign will bring new multimillion-dollar facilities for Hawkeye athletes to practice and train in. But do campaigns such as these run the risk of overshadowing the UI’s academics?

Football aids the university

One of the biggest reasons I chose a Big Ten school is because I absolutely love college football. While I know my opinion isn’t the only one out there, I can think of thousands of people who feel the same way — just look at the stands.

According to hawkeyesports.com (the official Hawkeye athletics site), “The $55 million Iowa Football Legacy project will be 100 percent funded by the UI Athletics Department, which is 100 percent self-sufficient and, as such, receives no state tax dollars or institutional funds.”

Not only is the new facility completely funded by the Athletics Department, it’s also far from the most expensive in a string of new college football facilities around the country. For example, the Oregon Athletics Department just spent $68 million, and Minnesota is gearing up to spend $70 million on a new practice facility.

It is clear that a competitive edge in college football is invaluable, not only to the football program but to the university as well. There is an advantage for universities with big football programs, such as those in the Big Ten: fancy new football facilities aid in recruiting better players, better players create a better football program, a better football program attracts a larger group of students by creating a more enticing college experience, a larger (more academically diverse) group of students applying means that a school can accept a higher caliber of students, higher caliber students often create more dedicated students and more successful alumni — which is the major goal of all universities.

All of these factors included, plus the added “buzz” that goes along with an improved football team helps generate revenue for not only the university but for other local businesses: bars, restaurants, and clothing stores — to name a few.

So while the new football facility is expensive, it is money well spent because as the Hawkeye football team gets better, so does the University of Iowa.

— Joe Lane

UI is more than sports

Any school with a successful college sports team has to be mindful of being seen primarily as a “sports school” at the expense of its overall image. When the line between those is drawn in the sand, it can easily be blurred.

Obviously, there are benefits to having a good sports team, such as more publicity for the school, increased revenue, etc. But at the same time, if too much emphasis is placed on the athletics side, the other parts of the institution could suffer.

The Hawkeyes are set to move into the recently built Richard O. Jacobson Football Operations Building this October. The project, described by Hawkeye middle linebacker Quinton Alston as the school’s new “big, shiny thing,” cost roughly $55 million to build and will come equipped with a nutrition bar, 18 weight-lifting racks, new locker rooms, and a variety of other amenities. The goals of the ambitious project are to have a cutting-edge training facility for the players as well as to lure in prospective athletes for recruitment.

The danger I see here is that the reputation of the sports programs could overshadow the reputation of the school itself. College athletics easily dominate all other aspects of the university in terms of ability to reach the masses and so with that much influence the message sent becomes that much more important. With an audience base as large as Iowa athletics has, I don’t think the message we should be sending is just that we have “big, shiny things.”

The University of Iowa is a school first, and although the athletics plays a large role in the overall infrastructure of the university, it is still just one of many important parts. The temptation will always be there to bolster one entity within the university with the argument that it will benefit the school as a whole. However, doing so could do just the opposite and create a factionalized environment within the institution. A school is the sum of all of its pieces, and there isn’t an individual part that is greater than the whole.

— Marcus Brown

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