University and athletics not on same page

During a recent discussion with a friend of mine and fellow alumni, we were wallowing in disappointment; after missing out on hosting the Milwaukee Cup last year, the Panther men’s soccer team finally gets their chance to bring the Golden Eagles to Engelmann Stadium. The disappointing part, of course, is that the late surge of the Brewers has caused a scheduling conflict. The Crew is hosting the Phillies at the same time as the Milwaukee Cup match, not only relegating the match recap to second-class status in the sports section, but taking precious student attendees who otherwise would be more than willing to bring their party to the soccer match out to Miller Park.

We were disappointed, but not as much as I was when I turned on my Android phone this morning. Last night, before bed, I downloaded the very sweet UWM Mobile app that is available for the iPhone and Android phones. Picking through it this morning, I saw positive things on the sports front, mainly the inclusion of schedules for every sport, extremely easy to find. It was something else that made me furious.

The front page’s first and most prominent button is the one for Pantherfest, which the Student Association has backed as their biggest event of the year. It’s always a decent party, and this year Lupe Fiasco will be the first returning artist to headline the event. Great choice. And then, the details came to my attention.

Friday night. September 9th.

Fury boiling inside me, I immediately went to check the Panthers website (still indecisively named UWMPanthers.com). Yup.

Men’s Soccer. Marquette. Friday night. September 9th.

Of all the problems I have with the university and its athletics program, whether it be the name of the program, the failure to adequately financially support LeVar Ridgeway’s attempts to market the program, or the continued ignorance that football is driving the future of college athletics, no problem irks me more than the lack of communication between departments inside the university.

What the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee should be all about is being on the same team, and working together towards a common goal – attracting the best students and faculty, educating the students and acquiring better and more research opportunities for the faculty, and fostering an atmosphere of passion for the university that spurs alumni to give back when they’re off and successful in the world.

That last part is very difficult to do when the Student Association and Athletics, two of the biggest parts of the university, have two of their largest events of the year running into each other.

Imagine you’re a college student at UWM. You’ve heard of the soccer rivalry between Milwaukee and Marquette. You are also a big fan of concerts and Lupe Fiasco. What are you going to choose?

It doesn’t matter, because there are students at Pantherfest that would love to go and be loud at a soccer game, and vice versa. When the SA only has a few events this size, and athletics only has a couple games this important and well-attended outside of basketball, the university should not need to be pitting one against the other.

It’s like what the basketball team has been doing for years – at all costs, avoid playing at the same time as the Packers. You do that because there are Panther fans who will choose to watch the Packer game instead. The Northern Iowa game from a few years ago saw hundreds of fans walk in late to the Panther game because they were watching the Packers trounce the Carolina Panthers.

The fact of the matter is, this all could have been avoided with a little communication. All the athletic department needed to do was make sure that none of its events ran headlong into Pantherfest. Barring that, they should have made a more insignificant game, such as the women’s soccer home game against Minnesota a few years ago, run against Pantherfest. You don’t schedule the Milwaukee Cup, the most important match of the soccer season, against the biggest event of the year. Pantherfest gets about 7,000 students every year, and it’s building. That’s a lot of students that could otherwise be tailgating and attending the soccer match at Engelmann Stadium.

Without college football, the university has very few chances to really grab student and alumni attention for athletics in the fall. The Milwaukee Cup is the biggest match in the fall, and yet all eyes outside our tight-knit Panther diehard family will be on the Marcus Amphitheater and Lupe Fiasco.

Open a line of communication so a boneheaded move like this doesn’t happen again.

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4 Responses

  1. Correct Information – PantherFest date for 2011 was sent in 2007 as part of initial contract conversations with Summerfest, prelim dates are on the books through 2015. 2010 saw between 13,000 & 14,000 students at PantherFest.

    UWM Debt & Budget issues do not allow for Football. Most college football teams loose money. As an example, Darren Rovell from CNBC tweeted this morning that Utah State football lost $748,074 in 2009… UWM can not add that sort of debt to athletics.

    The UWM Student Association has nothing to do with the PantherFest date selection, it was coordinated by Student Affairs, which Athletics is a part of. This double booking is solely the responsibilty of Athletics.

    The ‘bush league’ move by the student government of cutting the budget for athletics shows that the combination of ego & self come first as the students in power have repeatedly shown a lack of consistent commitment to Athletics. Beyond student government, the general student body does not show up to games & rarely sport the black & gold.

    • As far as the topic at hand is concerned – if your information is correct and the PantherFest dates are on the books through 2015, then it is ALL on athletics for failing to schedule around the event. They’ve been doing this for years.

      Now for football. If you look at football for what it is at its base – the expenses and income of the games themselves, on the field – then yes, football is too much money. Utah State lost 750k in 2009, that’s simple enough to see. I wonder, however, how much marketing value the university gained this afternoon when they nearly beat the national champs at Auburn. I’m willing to bet the advertising value of all the news media from today’s game and all that goes along with it – visits to usu.edu, pairs of eyes of potential students seeing the website – has a value of much more than 750k, and therefore is a good investment.

      If you look at football for what it is at its most basic, yes – it’s an event that about 20% of D-I schools make money from. If you look at it for what it really is – marketing for the university – then the value of college football is a lot higher. In today’s day and age where college football comes at a premium on television, millions of eyes will watch a game between Buffalo and Ball State this year. That’s three hours of prime programming on the highest watched station on cable, ESPN. The advertising dollars you could put for three hours of prime time programming on a network that size? The value is well worth however much money a university loses on its football program. Of course, if its done right, a university doesn’t have to lose money, even initially. In their first two seasons, Old Dominion in 2009 and 2010 made almost $3 million from their football team, playing I-AA FCS. Their basketball program is comparable to ours, and they were in an area – Norfolk – that already had a D-I football team.

      Look. In a perfect world, college athletics would not exist, because universities should be all about the academic side of their institutions. However, this isn’t Europe – America is much larger, has many more institutions – and this is the game we play in America. If you look at Utah State University – the third choice for most Utes after the public flagship University of Utah and the private Brigham Young University – they benefit greatly from the university’s football program, one that doesn’t win terribly often yet is on national TV as much as most mid-majors.

  2. Correct Information – PantherFest date for 2011 was sent in 2007 as part of initial contract conversations with Summerfest, prelim dates are on the books through 2015. 2010 saw between 13,000 & 14,000 students at PantherFest.

    UWM Debt & Budget issues do not allow for Football. Most college football teams loose money. As an example, Darren Rovell from CNBC tweeted this morning that Utah State football lost $748,074 in 2009… UWM can not add that sort of debt to athletics.

    The UWM Student Association has nothing to do with the PantherFest date selection, it was coordinated by Student Affairs, which Athletics is a part of. This double booking is solely the responsibilty of Athletics.

    The ‘bush league’ move by the student government of cutting the budget for athletics shows that the combination of ego & self come first as the students in power have repeatedly shown a lack of consistent commitment to Athletics. Beyond student government, the general student body does not show up to games & rarely sport the black & gold.

  3. […] this blog pointed out the athletic department’s major oversight of scheduling the Milwaukee Cup match against Marquette up against the biggest non-athletic event of the year, PantherFest.  We’re […]

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