Winning at Academics, Instead

I’m the director of a small university press at a mid-major university. Our basketball team, the Akron Zips, is doing well this year, but unless they win the MAC tournament, they might not get into the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  Some conferences will be strongly represented no matter how well a team might have fared in its own conference. But that’s big time college sports – driven by television and money and paying lip service to academics. A recent article in The New York Times about Duke Basketball probably said it best indicating the BMOC was Mike Krzyzewski and not the Duke President. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/sports/ncaabasketball/at-duke-basketball-tent-city-for-fun-and-profit.html?_r=0.)

                The University of Akron provides support for its university press and for its athletic program. I am appreciative that the university funds the press. The amount allows us to publish 10-15 books annually on both academic topics and regional history.

                I don’t want to compare NCAA sports to university presses, but it’s hard not to do. The amount of money, no matter the sources, that is invested in athletics tells a lot about how we view our best and brightest students. Several NCAA FCS head coaches receive more than $3 million dollars annually and the programs at those schools spend over $30 million on football.  The university subsidy for our press  is less than 1% of that amount and we are not alone.

                Many policymakers complain about how the United States is falling behind the world in math and science. States across the country are cutting back funding to local school districts. College sports have a place in the academic experience but in most cases the number of participants in inter-collegiate athletics is a very small percentage of total enrollments. I and many other press directors are waiting for our sports departments to provide us or other parts of the university with support. Perhaps, it’s time to tax our teams so that we can attend more personally and effectively to all students. Tutoring and team training tables work great for athletes. I’m sure the concepts would be as effective for in-need undergraduates. 

Thomas Bacher, Director, University of Akron Press

 

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