Saturday, December 14, 2013

Cast of the Broadway Show Pippin wants to save Temple Men's Gymnastics

Here's a video made by Temple gymnastics alum and current Pippin performer, Richard Maguire:

This crisis and others like it should force universities to rethink how resources are split between sports. As this Deadspin article illustrates, it wasn't the infamous Title IX legislation that is decimating some of the smaller men's sports but the disproportionate amount of funding that goes into sports like football. And though football brings in big bucks at some schools, it runs at a loss at many others. And because football teams are awarded the lion share of athletic scholarships that a university has to offer male athletes, when it comes time to cut programs and scholarships, the fringe men's sports are the ones to suffer. Because women don't play football, there is no comparable program on the women's side that sucks up such a huge portion of available resources.

In the case of Temple, they tried to be a big time football team and have lost a ton of money on it. As Barry Petchesky writes:

The chase for bigtime football is a pyramid scheme, and the Owls remain afloat at the expense of those sports on the bottom. What happens when the con man runs out of suckers?

One of the arguments that is typically made for football is that it pays for itself in terms of revenue that comes from ticket sales, TV contracts, and video games. But that's only true some of the time. As the Temple example demonstrates, that's not always true. 

If it's all about revenue generation then perhaps let's admit that student-athletes are professionals. I mean, that's the task of professional athletes--to generate profits for their owners. And if they are such, they should be compensated with more than just scholarships. After all, their schools and the NCAA makes a ton of money off of their backs and most college level football and basketball players will not going onto to earn huge contracts in professional leagues. But if supporting college athletics is about something more than profit, it is perhaps time to reconsider how we apportion our limited resources and athletic scholarships.


Shelly said...

I couldn't post on your Deadspin article for some reason, so I'm posting my comment here not the ice skating article:
I understand the comparison to Martha, but I disagree with it fully because qualifications for ice skating and gymnastics differ, as does the team aspects of the sport. As far as qualifications go - the ice skaters fully qualify for a spot to compete prior to the Olympics. This selection is the last round and once selected they're guaranteed to compete. In gymnastics, Martha selected the team, but then the qualification round at the Olympics actually qualified the girls to compete in the Olympic events. And in that instance, Martha did NOT apply situational pragmatism to the decision - she let the results do the talking. I'm talking about Aly and Gabby qualifying to compete in the All-Around event with Jordyn falling short. If Martha would be doing the same thing as USFS, she would have pulled Aly from that event and put in Jordyn - as Jordyn's body of work demonstrated the real possibility of winning a medal. Instead, she let the qualification results do the talking and Aly competed at the Olympics. Also, ice skating has a "team," but there is not team event - it is each individually on his or her own competing for a medal. Gymnastics has a team event and a team medal, which means that it doesn't make sense to put up the top five all-arounders. Instead, Martha has to make decisions based on other criteria b/c she has to fit the puzzle together. I see what you're saying in the comparison, but I don't think it's quite accurate and I don't think it defends the USFS choice.

Dvora Meyers said...

I agree. It's not a perfect comparison. For instance, there are many more medal winning opportunities for gymnastics whereas figure skating, there are just three per category.

There's also the team component which requires a bit of strategy. You can't use straight all-around standings if you really need say, a bar worker. But with the shrinking of Olympic teams from 6 to 5, the advantage is being thrown back to the all-arounders. It is doubtful that Martha will ever take a gymnast for one event ever again as she did with Maroney.

That said, because figure skating is SO SO reputation based--and not team reputation the way gymnastics is, meaning that the U.S. can bring a junior and she'll be scored favorably by virtue on the U.S. team--you certain need to take that into consideration. A figure skater needs to have that working for them.

My primary argument is that in subjective sports, having rigid selection rules is kind of silly. I know why that is--that when things feel unfair because of subjectivity, you cling harder to the rules and notions of fairness. This isn't a time sport with time trials.

And the reason I respond to sports such as this that are troubling in this way is precisely because they sort of mirror reality and things are ruthless there too.

But yes, you're right. There are critical differences between the two.