Department of Higher Earning

Other schools do the math as Metro State calculates the cost of subtracting athletics.

Sports boosters also like to say that having an intercollegiate sports program on campus attracts other students who might otherwise not attend -- friends and relatives of the athletes themselves, usually. Still, precisely how many tagalongs are drawn by sports is a matter of some debate. "One athlete brings one other person with him," claims Geiser, the Adams State athletic director. "With 350 athletes, that equals 700 students, or one-third of our student body."

Cubero, the UCCS athletic director, cites more optimistic figures. "Every student athlete brings in ten to fifteen other students," he insists. Regardless of the numbers, proponents argue that the negligible cost of supporting a campus's athletic habit is more than made up by the money the athletes pay in tuition.

Once again, however, such reasoning doesn't really apply to Metro State. With an enrollment of 20,000 full- and part-time students, adding 250 -- or even 500 -- to the rolls is probably not enough of a financial incentive to fund a full athletic program.

Christopher Smith

That leaves the somewhat vaguer benefit of an athletic program's public-relations value. High-profile college athletic programs certainly can cash in on their successes. "Last month, [television station] TBS came in and filmed twelve vignettes of our school that they're going to dump into the broadcast of their Saturday football game," boasts Dave Plati, CU-Boulder's director of sports information. "That's pretty good PR value. What would the cost be if you had to buy twelve one-minute spots?"

Yet not all successes are equal, and there are vast differences in how much a victory on the field enhances a school's image. A CU or an Oklahoma may see a surge in student applications after it wins a national Division I football title. But how many undecided students will make up their mind to attend Adams State because the tiny state school in southern Colorado boasts the top Division II men's and women's cross-country teams?

Metro's sports boosters insist the answer is "Enough." "Athletics is the window to the institution," says McDermott. "Much of what you hear about colleges is through their athletic program. Here at Metro, we've been a model program -- not only with winning, but our athletes are good students, as well. We're doing it right."

Between 1994 and 1995, when Arcese instigated his sports program, and this year, Metro's full-time equivalent student enrollment did climb just under 16 percent. Yet it's impossible to know how many of those students came because of the Roadrunners' success on the field and in the gym. After all, according to the state's Commission on Higher Education, FTE enrollment at Colorado's four-year institutions of higher learning as a whole increased at just about the same rate during that eight-year period -- even though most of the schools failed to win a national sports title.

When it comes down to it, the fuss over Metro's sports program is much ado over small change. In a yearly budget of $105 million, a million dollars doesn't really amount to much. You might argue that Denver has enough sports to pay attention to and that the purpose of college is to be found in the classroom, not on a field. On the other hand, athletics are all about human achievement -- certainly not a concept that is foreign to a college.

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