Current athletic system interferes with university’s educational mission


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

With the student and faculty protest Thursday, we saw a collision between two of North Carolina’s most valued traditions: sports and education.

Look, sports are great, and there are certainly legitimate reasons why students should enjoy them. The constitution of our state, however, does not require that the general assembly work to provide cheap sports to the people of North Carolina.

The constitution does require that for higher education, however, and the current system of sports is a major factor interfering with that mission.

The picture for higher education has been bleak lately, both in the state and nationally. A December 2014 Government Accountability Office report found that, for the first time in years, tuition made up a larger percentage of public college revenues than state support did.

We were certainly affected this year when the board of governors voted to raise tuition from $3,772-$3,961.

Yet, in a time when more of the burden for the cost of higher education was falling on students, we have the additional expense of student athletic fees going to support our programs. Currently, athletic fees stand at $713 and are scheduled to reach $738 next school year. Collectively, the university sports programs cost $19,414,754, according to a 2014 NCAA data compilation in USA Today.

Of the total revenue, student fees and other general fund money make up nearly 53 percent of that amount.

If the data of the costs was not enough, the controversy brought on by the parking policies are emblematic of the place we are at with education. Here we had the two groups who were most essential to this university’s mission, the faculty and the students, pushed aside to accommodate a football game.

I do not know exactly where we go from here, but this has to change. I still believe we can find a way to maintain some version of college sports that does not so drastically interfere with the functioning of the university system.

Why is there such an appeal to having highly commercialized, quasi-professional sports teams associated with universities? That should be the purpose of professional sports.

To maintain the legitimate reasons for college sports — institutional pride, sportsmanship, and collegiate solidarity — we do not need these massive entities. I believe we could likely satisfy those needs with a much more scaled down system than we currently have.

This is not an indictment of people who love their team and are proud of the hard work players put in. It is an indictment of a system that is actively contributing to the educational inequities in this state.

Griffin, a senior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.