SPECIAL SERIES : WILL STUDENTS PAY MORE?
Voters Deal Blow to Athletics
March 29, 2004 2:08 PM
On March 2 and 3, students were asked to vote on four possible fee increases that would help maintain specific student services. Out of the four referendums on the ballot, all were passed except one: athletics.
SF State students voted much like its predominantly liberal Bay Area surroundings, being the black sheep among a herd of American colleges and universities where sports often play an integral part of school life.
"Big Ten" schools receive support and funding for their football and basketball programs, providing multiple “full ride” scholarships and perks for their athletes. While SF State’s Athletic Department, little known to those outside of it, resides in a deteriorating building with cracked doorways and increasingly limited facilities, and in fact does not even have a football team.
The week of the election about 8,500 students turned out to vote, a significant increase from most campus elections, amounting to nearly 30 percent of student population.
Travis Jones, a sophomore working at the voting booths, said there were nearly 5,000 people on the first day. “A lot of people who come to vote seem to already know how they are going to vote,” he said, adding that he thought there was definitely adequate information available from pamphlets provided on campus.
Kristopher Gibson and AJ Biama sat in their baseball coach’s office on March 3, finishing up homework and watching a game on TV. The two baseball players were enthusiastic about encouraging people to vote on the athletic referendum, but had not yet filled out ballots themselves.
“I’m voting today,” Gibson said, “and I’m encouraging everybody to vote for athletics.” If the athletic referendum did not pass, Gibson was pretty sure he would have to go elsewhere for an education. “[SF State] is a good school and everything, but I still want to play sports,” he said in regards to the risk that almost half of the athletic department’s programs would be cut from the budget.
Biama agreed that a majority of the student athletes at SF State would probably transfer schools if the referendum didn’t pass.
“I think if a lot of our student body knew about sports this wouldn’t be going on,” said Biama, a criminal justice major, “I think a lot of people should go to the games before they vote.”
Lauren Dowell, a softball player, was found passing out fliers encouraging students to pass the athletics referendum the day of the elections. “We bring a lot of spirit to the school,” she said from underneath her visor, “to cut sports would be cutting a huge part of the way we live. A lot of us would have to transfer schools because that’s what we do, we play sports.”
Dowell explained sports as a positive influence on her own and her teammates lives. “It encourages a lot of people to stay in school and to do well,” she said, “We have grades we have to make, and a lot of people study harder to stay in their sport.”
Unfortunately for Gibson, Dowell and Biama, many people didn’t go to the games or understand the spirit that these athletes felt sports added to the school. The referendum missed its chance at passing by a mere two and a half percent.
The next week, after the elections were over, Dowell was in the training room stretching before practice. “It sucks,” she said about the referendum not passing, “we’re all really disappointed.”
However disappointing, it seemed many people within the athletic department were prepared for such results. Jim Price, the recreations supervisor in the weight room on campus was upset but not surprised.
“I didn’t expect the campus to rally around something that’s practically obsolete,” he said from behind his table in a nearly full weight room at noon on a Tuesday. “Everyone sees us over here in the gym as unintelligent little knuckle-draggers, and if jocks don’t get their thing that’s just great because jocks beat me up in high school, or who needs it I’m not using it.”
Price explained that the referendum’s failure to pass will have a great effect on the recreational sports, the facilities, and the students who do use them.
“They’re cutting hours for people working and their cutting classes that use the facilities,” he said, “If they cut half the rec sports, we lose the waterpolo, we lose the open swim time. [The pool] becomes a puddle and this weight room becomes old equipment. We believe here in the kinesiology department that physical health is every bit as important as mental health.”
In a sense, Price was right about students at SF State. Many felt there was a limit to the additional money they would be willing to pay the following semesters; and athletics was not important enough to make the cut.
John Murphy, a liberal studies major, voted yes on all except athletics because of a “personal bias.”
“I don’t think athletics are a strong point of the school,” he said. “People are here to get an education and if you want to play volleyball or something you should go to a school with a mascot you can recognize.”
Murphy did not feel alone in his decision, considering athletics was the only referendum that did not pass. It made sense that students would want to put more money into education, and not sports, he said.
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