Recently a petition surfaced regarding the full-on cutting of athletics at Portland State in response to the school’s budgetary crisis. The man behind the petition, KPSU manager Keegan Meyer, states that with PSU’s nearly $15 million budget deficit, cutting athletics altogether—the football team was made “self-sufficient” earlier this year—would be a giant step forward in alleviating the crisis.
Point taken. But I needed to hear more, so I went to the man himself.
Keegan was open, forthcoming and candid about his petition and what it stands for. He made it clear that his intent was not to bury athletics in general, but simply to do what’s best for the university and all that encompasses it. That’s understandable, and quite frankly, he makes a lot of valid points in his argument.
But cutting athletics is just putting a Band-Aid on a situation that needs much more.
The school’s budget committee has bounced figures around—some say the $15 million is overblown—but the fact remains that cutting athletics would only drop the number to $12 million, $10 million if we’re being generous. What you’re left with is a major college in a big city that has no athletic department and a deficit that is still too big to ignore.
Meyer’s arguments, as I said, are valid. Last year the school spent $447,000 more than it gained. For a school like PSU, athletics don’t drive the budget like they do at other schools. However, the point that is being pushed to the side is that cutting the entire athletic department would put off a major part of the student population: the athletes themselves.
Look up and down the roster for the major sports teams, and they are littered with kids from out of state who are here for an opportunity that may not have been given elsewhere. These kids are transplanting to Portland to see how great the city is, get an education and make themselves better people.
Can we deny them that opportunity because the school wants to cut a small chunk of their budget off? That seems worse to me than anything.
PSU’s motto is “Let knowledge serve the city,” which is one of Keegan’s arguments toward putting more emphasis on academics. But no one is denying that focusing on academics is a must and should receive viable attention. However, this is college: a time to grow as a person, inside the classroom and out.
For many athletes, the lessons they learn on the playing field are more valuable than anything they could learn sitting in a lecture. Sports help people learn how to work as a team and how to lean on someone else while strengthening yourself in the process.
It’s about learning to come together as one; it’s about sportsmanship and leadership—tools that are necessary when these young men and women graduate and go out into the real world.
It’s a nice thought that money saved from cutting sports would be well spent; it could help aid in lowering student costs and help raise teachers’ salaries. Or it could be spent in other ways, where no one would benefit and only the people at the top are rewarded.
It’s no secret that at major universities the highest of the high are paid as such, and others are left to squabble over the crumbs. And while no one can say that is what would happen, you must ask yourself: What has the school done lately that would give you faith in them?
It’s easy to sit and state facts about this issue, either for or against. But it’s not a black and white issue—there’s too much grey. And in reality, there’s not even a right or wrong, there’s simply doing what’s right. Don’t deny these kids the chance to shine. Don’t take away an opportunity that could change their lives forever.
Cutting athletics is a temporary stop-gap to a problem that is so much bigger. Unfortunately, the wounds it would open up would be deeper than the ones it would close.