Athletics was the topic for the sixth annual Deliberative Democracy Day at Weber State University, held this afternoon.
Panelists answered questions ranging from budget distribution to the exploitation of college athletes.
Prior to the panel discussion, students met in focus groups to discuss various issues in collegiate athletics, including Title IX, the Education Amendment of 1972; laws and details of institutions classified under the NCAA Division 1, which WSU is in; the impact WSU athletics has on the Ogden economy; and things athletes in college are subject to.
The focus groups allowed students the opportunity to engage with their peers, gather various opinions and learn specific details associated with athletics.
WSU welding engineer Ryan Whiteford said he has never been into athletics and doesn’t know much about them, but because he was able to facilitate one of the focus groups, he found the event helpful.
“I definitely learned a lot and got to hear a lot of different opinions,” Whiteford said. “It was interesting to hear where the money is going, and I know a lot of students question if we are losing money, but they answered that they haven’t gone below their budget.”
Panelist Amy Crosbie, WSU associate athletics director and senior administrator, said the athletics department has successfully balanced the budget for almost the entire time Jerry Bovee has been athletics director at WSU, which has been since September 2009, but if the department got into a deficit, it would re-examine distribution and make the cuts necessary to get back on track.
“We make decisions for expenses, facilities we build, all of our coaches — we have had times where we have had to turn P (purchasing) cards off, so we will go to that extent to balance our budget,” Crosbie said.
When a student asked about the economic impact of athletics on the Ogden community, panelist Mayor Mike Caldwell, an alumnus of WSU, said the amount of money is hard to measure; however, he said there is a huge impact not just among local community members, but especially when other schools come to Ogden to play WSU.
“We have been making real concerted efforts to bring the community more on campus and to bring people on campus out into the community,” Caldwell said. “We think those lines need to be taken down . . . WSU has a really rich and unique history, and that is something we would like to bring back and that is a huge priority for us.”
One group was interested in the panelists’ opinions about Title IX, saying the majority of their members think it has created a negative impact on college athletics.
WSU human performance professor Molly Smith said she went to college before Title IX was passed. She said that students who think of it as having a negative effect think so because they have never had to live without it, and that Title IX wasn’t about athletics, but about educational opportunities.
“All the things that had been afforded to men in terms of leadership, independence in activity, camaraderie and teamwork, all of those attributes and the opportunities to go to school,” Smith said, “for all the young women who would have never been able to get a scholarship . . . can’t imagine life without women playing sports, and it wouldn’t have happened without a law.”
WSU student body president David Wilson said he wanted to get the panelists’ expert opinions on the exploitation of college athletes and if they believe unionizing is a smart move on behalf of athletes.
Crosbie said she feels there has been “a shift in the wrong direction in regards to the spirit of sports at the college level.” She added that many student athletes may feel they are being exploited, but that she thinks those athletes have lost what it means to be a college athlete and the mission behind college athletics and that they should remember student athletes competing in Division 1, 2, 3 or in junior college are receiving their education.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of individuals at this campus and on campus across the country that will finish out their bachelor’s degree and master’s with large student loans,” Crosbie said. “Student athletes . . . don’t have that big of a burden, so my core for college athletics is about receiving your education, experiencing sports at the highest level and leadership qualities . . . my experiences as a student athlete have built who I am as a leader.”
The discussion ended with a promotional push from each panelist to all attendees to take time out to support the athletes at WSU and go to the games when they can find time.
“Don’t be afraid to come up to the department and tell me what we can do to reciprocate that relationship,” Crosbie said. “Certainly our student athletes have a lot of things they can do to reach out to our student body, and we are open for ideas and want to bridge that gap, but the biggest thing . . . come and support.”