Slippery Slopes

Western State seeks to save its ski team with a dash for private cash.

Scaring up enough private coin to support a huge Division I sport may not be realistic. The world of intercollegiate sports is serious, multimillion-dollar business, and the cost of mounting, say, a competitive football or basketball agenda climbs every year. The University of Colorado spends $300,000 annually just to make sure it follows NCAA rules. Another $135,000 goes to teach its young recruits sufficient "life skills" to keep them well-behaved enough to run, block, tackle or pass for the Buffs another year.

Then again, maybe it is possible. If they really want to see something badly enough, people have been known to support all manner of big-ticket athletic events and venues, from professional wrestling to half-billion-dollar football stadiums. As money for higher education becomes tighter, universities may need to take the radical step of narrowing their focus on what actually makes them universities -- and rely on others to pay the bills for the jocks.

Some acts, like Cornell's horse-riding team, probably won't make the cut. But, as Western State is discovering, you never know what's possible until you ask.

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