Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Future of UNH Athletics

CONCORD, N.H.—"The University of New Hampshire should stop treating athletics as a sideline and start pumping more money into the program, boost private fundraising efforts, and upgrade or replace aging sports facilities, an in-house report released Friday said." Athletics cannot be treated as a self-sustaining auxiliary," the panel, appointed by UNH President Mark Huddleston, said. "At UNH, as at our peer institutions, an ongoing institutional commitment is essential."
Huddleston appointed the group in 2008 after students balked at a proposed increase in athletics fees. The group was led by former University of Delaware President David Roselle and included UNH faculty, staff, students and alumni who were instructed to compare UNH to other schools and recommend a more sustainable model for athletic funding without cutting teams... In fiscal year 2007, UNH athletics raised $439,000, compared to $800,000 at the University of Vermont, $1.3 million at the University of Delaware and $14 million at the University of Connecticut. Only 1 percent of UNH's former athletes donated money, compared to 26 percent at Boston College."

In this article from several issues I have brought up in the past were mentioned. Mainly, the renovation of the field house and the football stadium. This is a fine example of economics 101, you're going to have to spend money to make money. A new football stadium would attract bigger crowds and bigger crowds attract bigger recruits which leads to better teams and more wins and the cycle continues. Many FCS football teams loss money or break even and UNH has the chance to be one of the few profitable teams in the league if the university is willing to spend money now to make money later. One figure from that article that jumped out at me is that only 1% of former athletes gave donations to UNH. That is terrible, many college athletic programs only exist due to contributions and that needs to increase immediately if UNH is going to achieve their goals.

Obviously there are a boat load of money issues going on with UNH right now from the potential professor salary strike to the massive tuitions, but if UNH were to make athletics a priority a lot of money could be made. Take a look at all of the top earning universities in the country, they almost all have a strong athletic program. Now I understand that UNH is tiny compared to those schools (ex: Ohio State, Arizona State, Texas, Michigan ect.) but as a decent sized state university with no instate competition UNH has not taken advantage of these opportunities. The field house and football stadium are a disgrace to our university, there are much smaller schools with nicer facilities. There are local high schools with nicer fields and gyms than UNH. It really is quite pathetic.

One area that could really help out UNH in the long run is the basketball program. If they were to move their home games to the Whittemore Center, which has been done in the past when Florida played here and for high school state championship games, they could attract bigger programs to play here. Every year UNH travels to teams like Pitt, Maryland, or Penn State, but very rarely do we get a return game the following year, which is the case with most teams.

Boston University, which is in the same basketball conference as UNH, has very similar facilities to UNH. They have a smaller gym and a nice big arena that is primarily used for hockey. Their basketball team usually plays about half their home games at the nicer arena. Those games routinely attract bigger crowds and they have to compete with the Boston professional teams and other schools like BC, Harvard and Northeastern for non-student crowds. I see no reason why UNH can't do the same.
Basketball Court at the Whit.

Another way for UNH to make some money would be to sign a deal with WMUR to broadcast home hockey and football games. NH public TV used to cover the hockey games up until a few years ago but they cut it do to a lack in advertising. However, I think that a bigger network like WMUR would be able to land better partners that public TV. All I am saying is that there is no excuse to UNH, a state univeristy, to have such poor standards when it comes to athletics. Especially since several teams like men's and women's hockey and football are national contenders every year. Those are just some things to think about. 

A lot of you may think that UNH has bigger problems than athletics, but if these goal are met athletics could become a primary source of income. Remember you have to spend money to make money. 

Stay Classy, not UMassy.

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