May 04, 2004
Professors dislike football: Film at 11

As in 1992, a majority of Rice professors have expressed a dislike of atheltics in general and football in particular. As in 1992, I expect the trustees to thank them for their input and then ignore it. I for one refuse to waste any energy worrying about it.

Speaking as an alum of a Division III school, let me say that there's a huge gap between that and Division I. There's no doubt in my mind that Rice would attract a different student body overall if athletics were deemphasized to that degree, though of course whether that would come to be seen as a positive change or not is something I cannot say. Division III is also a more expensive option than you might think because of travel costs - there just aren't that many Div III schools close by - and the inability to recoup any costs via ticket sales - football crowds at Trinity back when I was a student measured around 200-300, basketball crowds at about 100, and baseball crowds at about 20. Admittedly, Trinity's football team - indeed, all of their teams - is a lot better now than it was then, but still. For the number of people that would attend, you may as well not charge admission.

UPDATE: Ginger adds her perspective as a Rice alum.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 04, 2004 to Other sports | TrackBack

Since Rice is about to join Conference USA, I can assure you that the expenses of traveling within that conference will be higher than they would be for a Division III school, however, if Rice could find like minded schools and form a Southwest version of the Ivy League, then a drop to I-AA wouldn't result in that much of a change in the student body.

You are more than correct, however, that Division III schools typically do not recoup their athletic expenses via ticket sales, however, student fees do make up the difference most of the time. On the other hand, NYU charges $6 a ticket for basketball. Ironically, NYU plays in a conference that is spread out throughout the eastern part of the country and is academically oriented (University Athletic Association, with schools from Boston to St. Louis) that would be suitable for Rice if they did drop to Division III.

Posted by: William Hughes on May 4, 2004 8:56 AM

They're doing the same thing at my alma mater, San Jose State, one of Rice's soon-to-be ex-brethren in the WAC.

The Academic Senate recently passed a non-binding/advisory resolution to all but scrap football. There's also some clown named James Brent, a poli sci professor at State, running some group he calls "Spartans4Sanity" who are trying to kill football at SJSU.

What gets me is that these faculty have a complete lack of understanding about how athletics are funded, and about the link between athletic programs (mostly football but also men's basketball and occasionally other programs) and overall university donations to academic purposes. They seem to assume that donations will stay at current levels or go down very slightly if athletic programs are cut. I'm not convinced that's the case, and I think they are overstating their case.

I can at least understand why folks at cash-strapped SJSU, a public university in a state with severe budget problems, would consider this. But Rice?

Posted by: Tim on May 4, 2004 9:15 AM

Did you see who ran that poll? Dude, Haskell has been trying to get rid of football since I was an undergrad. Agenda much, anybody?

Posted by: Ginger on May 4, 2004 9:24 AM

William - With Houston, SMU, Tulsa, Tulane, and now UTEP in C-USA, Rice's travel won't be any worse than it was, and will probably be better. It compares pretty favorably to Trinity's travelmates in the SCAC.

You're right about student fees, but then Rice students pay them now anyway. I suspect those fees would necessarily be much higher in Div III.

Ginger - Yeah, I noticed. Haskell is still flogging this issue. Dude needs a different hobby.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 4, 2004 10:59 AM

Out of curiosity, why doesn't Trinity join the American Southwest Conference? There are eight Texas schools in there, all but one (Sul Ross State) private. I've always been kind of curious about that.

Posted by: R. Alex on May 4, 2004 2:03 PM

Alex - Best answer I can give you is that most of the SCAC schools are longstanding opponents. We were playing against Centre, Millsaps, Rhodes, Oglethorpe, and U of the South back when I was there. Of course, we also played a lot of those ASC schools, too, (Schreiner, Hardin-Simmons, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Sul Ross, TLC, Austin College, LeTourneau, Howard Payne) so I guess the right answer is "beats the heck out of me".

There may also be a "peer institution" thing going, but I don't remember any of that from my day.

Man, I'd forgotten about many of these schools. So there's more DIII in Texas than I remembered. My point about not recouping any costs at the box office still stands, though.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 4, 2004 4:04 PM

Alex, Trinity joined the SCAC, which started in 1962, back in the fall of 1988. One of the reasons given at the time was that all of the schools in the SCAC have similar academic standards.

The ASC was formed in 1996 with 8 schools and has grown rapidly to 16 schools. I don't think the ASC is in the market for new schools.

Also, I think Trinity is happy with the increased exposure outside of the state of Texas. I seem to recall the goal of the school to recruit at least half of the admissions from outside of Texas. Eight of the 10 schools in the SCAC are outside of Texas, while 13 of the 16 schools in the ASC are in Texas.

But the conference wouldn't matter - wherever you put the mighty, might Trinity Tigers, they would dominate. ;-)

And that is a BIG change from 15 years ago.

Posted by: Patrick on May 4, 2004 4:38 PM

See, this is why it's a good thing to have former classmates reading your blog. Thanks, Patrick!

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 4, 2004 8:47 PM

Charles, I wasn't disagreeing with your analysis or Rice's situation. It's just something I've always been curious about.

Patrick, thanks for the info. I didn't know that the ASW had that many schools. I was only looking at the football ones.

Posted by: R. Alex on May 4, 2004 9:16 PM

Alex, sorry, I didn't mean to make it sound like you'd disputed something. I'd just come to the realization that I was wrong when I made an issue of travel costs for DIII schools in Texas.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on May 4, 2004 9:42 PM

why is austin collge dropping out of the asc. used to be a punter for Miss. College and I was shocked to hear that.

Posted by: wilson Hillman on October 1, 2005 2:33 AM

Hmm, yes, replying to a seven-month old comment, but what the heck. :)

I believe Austin College also felt like it was in need of competition with "peer institutions" and wanted to be with the perceived higher-end academic institutions of the SCAC.

Posted by: Pat Coleman on May 15, 2006 2:54 PM