Ideas

Position Paper: Inter-Collegiate Athletics

“Hail! Hail to Michigan, the leaders and the best!”

Michigan Fight Song (composed by U-M student Louis Elbel in 1898)

Key ideas:

  • While a thriving athletic department is essential to University life, it should never be a higher priority than the teaching and research missions of the University.
  • Michigan student athletes deserve the very best facilities, coaches, and support available.
  • Priorities correctly identified by the Athletic Department include renovation of Schembechler Hall, parking and facilities upgrades.
  • Self-sufficiency of the Athletic Department must continue. The Athletic Department is among only 22 self-sufficient NCAA Division 1 athletic departments. Strong leadership has enabled the Athletic Department to operate a surplus for 10 straight years.
  • The department’s contribution to the general fund (primarily through tuition for scholarship athletes) must continue.

 

Discussion:

Athletics can bring great honor or dishonor to an institution of higher learning.

At the University of Michigan, athletics are more than a game – they are part of the fabric of the school and of the state. There’s no feeling quite like arriving at Michigan Stadium on a football Saturday, hearing the marching band ring out “Hail to the Victors.”

From basketball to swimming to ice hockey and so much more, alumni around the world root for the maize and blue. It’s part of the tradition of being a U of M student, and it is a proud tradition for the school. As alumni share this legacy with the people they care about, the spirit of athletics becomes a family memory and a communal experience.

The endless stream of trophies and championships defines athletics at the University of Michigan. Michigan student athletes deserve the very best facilities, coaches, and support available.

The Athletic Department, under the leadership of Athletic Director David Brandon (a former U-M Regent), supports NCAA sanctioned competition in 29 sports (the NCAA sanctions competition in 88 sports). The FY2013 Athletic Department budget projects $130.3 million in revenue and $124.5 million in operating expenses. A $5.8 million surplus is expected. Athletic department salaries are projected at approximately $40.3 million.

The U-M Athletic Department is unique among NCAA Division 1 programs – one of only 22 programs that are entirely self-sufficient. In fact, the U-M Athletic Department contributes to the general fund of the University through (primarily) tuition for scholarship athletes. This support for the essential educational mission of the University must remain a priority.

Strong financial management of the Athletic Department has generated a surplus for 10 straight years. This disciplined approach to spending and budgeting must continue.

Recent facilities upgrades to Michigan Stadium and Chrisler Arena (including the new William Davidson Player Development Center) have benefited the football and basketball programs (men and women’s). The recently approved renovation of Schembechler Hall represents another step in the right direction with respect to facilities.

The $2.8 million Michigan Stadium marquee project involving a 27’ x 48’ digital display inside gate 2 must be designed and operated in a manner that is sensitive to the Ann Arbor residents and businesses located in close proximity to this structure.

Priorities correctly identified by the Athletic Department include parking and facilities upgrades. Parking challenges are most acute when multiple events occur on the same day (e.g. basketball, swimming, hockey and volleyball). This negatively impacts the neighborhoods adjacent to these inadequate parking areas. Facilities upgrades are most urgent with regard to water polo/swimming (larger deck area), indoor and outdoor track (lane obstructions). Finally, larger facilities should be considered for volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling. The potential expansion of Michigan Stadium involving the addition of more bleacher seating on the north and south ends of the stadium may help generate revenue to enable these projects.

Importantly, while a thriving athletic department is essential to university life, it should never be a higher priority than the teaching and research missions of the University.

U of M should strive to excel in everything that it does, and that includes athletics.

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