UBC to join NCAA?

2008-09-13

in Canada, Economics, Rants

It seems the University of British Columbia is considering joining Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and is at least nominally soliciting advice from students and alumni about the decision. Personally, I have never seen varsity sports as an important part of what the universities do. For the most part, students who don’t care and don’t watch them are subsidizing athletes who contribute little to the overall university community. Sports programs also divert funding away from more valuable uses such as research, student scholarships and bursaries, and university infrastructure.

Ideally, UBC should make the ‘Varsity Sports Fee’ that gets imposed on every student an opt-in system. Then students who feel that the program is worth the approximately $200 per year cost of the program can choose to support it. By all means, attendance of athletic events can be restricted to those who pay the fee. Even so, I expect they would see a sharp contraction in their level of funding: relatively clear evidence that these programs are valued more by university administrators than by students. If the sports programs wanted to preserve their present level of funding, they would need to find willing donors, rather than exact a semi-hidden tax on those who often have far more pressing financial needs.

In any case, three consultations on the move are planned:

  • September 29, 4:00-7:00 p.m. – Liu Centre, Multi-purpose Room, 6476 North West Marine Drive
  • October 14, 6:00-9:00 p.m. – Ponderosa Centre, Arbutus Room, 2071 West Mall
  • October 15, 4:00-7:00 p.m. – Ponderosa Centre, Arbutus Room, 2071 West Mall

Those in Vancouver may wish to consider attending.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah September 13, 2008 at 10:27 pm

To what does the $500 a year refer (per athlete covered? per student at UBC?) and where does the figure come from?
Further, do you know if the proposed changes will affect female athletes? The news coverage seems to be focusing on men’s teams, but perhaps this is merely the ongoing gender bias in sports coverage rather than any bias in the NCAA system.

Padraic September 14, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Would you consider debating to be analogous to these varsity sports? (Or in UBC’s case, these other varsity sports)

Milan September 15, 2008 at 12:12 am

I don’t think ordinary students should subsidize debate any more than basketball or hockey. All are great activities for individuals to engage in if they choose, but they really aren’t part of the core mandate of a university.

Milan September 15, 2008 at 12:16 am

To what does the $500 a year refer (per athlete covered? per student at UBC?) and where does the figure come from?

The $500 per year is part of the tuition paid by all undergraduates. I remember the approximate number because I campaigned against it. I tried looking at my financial account on the UBC website to get an exact figure, but the numbers there aren’t sufficiently detailed.

I know nothing about differential treatment between men’s and women’s teams, in relation to the NCAA decision.

Milan September 15, 2008 at 12:19 am

Originally, the post above listed the varsity sports fee as $500 a year. After checking into it, I found that it is actually $186 a year and I changed the post above.

This page details the sports fees: $185.94 for varsity sports, and $21 for intramurals.

. September 15, 2008 at 12:20 am

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
UBC and the NCAA

[I’d meant to write this sooner, but work commitments sapped my time and writing energies. As well, there’s a very good Ubyssey article on the subject; read it here. I also note that there has been some discussion at AMS Exec about the Athletics fee; I’m not sure what it is, and I’m not sure on the latest developments.]

The annual NCAA men’s Division I basketball championship is coming up in a couple weeks. I’m excited. But did you know that UBC could compete in it as soon as a decade from now? More importantly, did you know that, even if you don’t give a rat’s ass about sports or athletics, you should still care?

The NCAA is the US collegiate sports authority. It’s big. There are no non-US members. They recently voted to allow non-US members into Division II (their second tier) on a provisional basis. UBC harbours an intense desire to join the NCAA. Why? Better competition, more exposure, better development opportunities, and fewer restrictions on offering scholarships. In short, Athletics wants to be bigger.

But here’s the thing about joining the NCAA. It’ll cost a ton. Initially, only a few sports would join, which would only require an internal budgetary re-allocation within Athletics. But UBC’s athletics facilities generally are far below the requirements for NCAA competition. They need upgrading. And that’s where students come in.

Sarah September 15, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Well I don’t resent paying around $200 a year (there is also a summer term fee, which is around $10) for other people to do sport so long as the money is well spent – we live in a largely inactive society, so encouraging people to be more active seems wise. However, $500 is the sort of sum where every student could purchase a decent new(ish) bicycle, take a year’s worth of tap dancing lessons or purchase a used kayak instead of subsidizing a year of someone else’s competitive team sports. I would certainly object to a $500 yearly fee.
I don’t see how we can be expected to make a decision on this NCAA thing without reliable estimates about what it will cost and how it is likely to be funded. I probably wouldn’t resent paying an extra $10 or $20 a year in fees if a large majority of students support this, but personally I would MUCH, MUCH rather see my money spent on extra library books, improving the cycle facilities, providing a secure kayak lockup at Wreck & ensuring that every graduate student has access to an office in which to do their research.

Milan September 15, 2008 at 3:59 pm

I guess my $500 recollection was either based on the total fees paid per student per year (which would be reduced by 30% if sports fees were omitted) or the total amount paid for sports by the average student across a B.A. program.

I don’t think it’s especially likely that having UBC join the NCAA will help overall student fitness. If fitness is the priority, a far better option would be taking the varsity money and using it to provide grants to students willing to take a swim class, get a gym membership, etc.

Some level of support for active lifestyles is probably appropriate in a university community. A mandatory fee of $200 per year to support teams that a minority of people watch or care about doesn’t seem consistent with that.

. September 15, 2008 at 4:03 pm

The net effect is that we, the current students, are paying for shiny new facilities that will appear at some point in the future. Obviously, these will not be in place by the time most of us graduate. In addition, it is conceivable that future students may have very limited use of these facilities. I’ll make it clear again: that this is NOT something that might happen if we are not careful, it is already occurring and has been for at least a few years.

. September 15, 2008 at 4:20 pm

UBC and the NCAA
* October 31, 2007

UBC is trying hard to get into the NCAA. Division I would be the holy grail, but they’ll settle for Division II.

An article (one of many over the past little while) in today’s Province outlines the bid by UBC to join the NCAA. And it seems to be motivated by the ability to offer athletic scholarships.

UBC awaits word on move to NCAA
Last Updated: Thursday, August 24, 2006 | 7:28 PM ET

University of British Columbia athletic teams may soon be facing the Connecticut Huskies instead of the Saskatchewan Huskies.

According to a Vancouver newspaper, UBC anticipates a decision any day now on its application to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

UBC expects visit by NCAA
Local delegation approached U.S. body in May
Steve Ewen , The Province
Published: Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Interested in possible membership, the UBC Thunderbirds power brokers went to see the NCAA. Now the NCAA bigwigs will be coming to see them.

Marc Weber, Thunderbird athletics communications co-ordinator, acknowledged late Monday that UBC is expecting a visit from the NCAA types in the near future.

UBC tantalizingly close to NCAA nod
U.S. college giant considers accepting its first Canadian school
Ed Willes, The Province
Published: Thursday, August 24, 2006

It’s all heady stuff if you’ve been one of the lonely few who’s supported Canadian varsity athletics over the years, but let’s stop for a moment and consider the full impact of UBC’s application to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Try to envision the UBC men’s basketball team and a starting five composed largely of Canadian kids playing North Carolina in March Madness. Or imagine the men’s and women’s hockey teams playing in the Frozen Four. Or the baseball team in the College World Series. Or the golf team teeing it up against Arizona and Arizona State.

UBC gets green light from NCAA
Friday, January 12th, 2007

by Boris Korby
News Staff

Amidst all the hoopla that accompanied the BCS National Championship game last Monday was a small announcement at the NCAA’s annual convention in Orlando that might very well be the first step towards UBC’s admittance into the NCAA—the largest and most financially lucrative collegiate sports organisation in the world.

UBC Thunderbirds: NCAA membership bid

Anonymous September 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm

This is another one of the those debates about whether activities on campus should be user-pay or subsidized by everyone. This debate came up when people were discussing the U-PASS as well. Students who took the bus on a regular basis would benefit disproportionately and those who didn’t would be asked to contribute to a service they didn’t use much. In the spirit of the kind of community students were trying to build at UBC, I felt this was fine: and I supported the U-PASS.

Likewise, certain activities that are important to a university’s identity and spirit should be sponsored. Athletics has always been at least a part of the traditional university culture, and few reputable university in the world do not have varsity sports teams.

People can argue that UBC’s varsity athletic programs aren’t worth watching or that they don’t care, but the lack of passion currently found on campus doesn’t have to remain that way. Similar to students saying that they don’t use the bus, it doesn’t have to (and didn’t) remain that way.

I can also point to another issue specific to universities out in the West. We’re really really far away from the rest of Canada (i.e. Ontario). When I did athletics there, I remember we were part of the U.S. NAIA partly due to the fact that we couldn’t afford to fly all the way to Ontario (or even Winnipeg) every weekend. So we vanpooled down to Washington and Oregon state instead to compete with some of the smaller schools on the west coast. The NCAA would also serve this purpose, except allow UBC compete with schools comparable in size.

With the clamour for additional funding for Olympians, I’m surprised that people wouldn’t want to start with university sports programs. There is a lot of development that goes on at universities, and if we developed some of the raw talent that goes to waste each year, we’d have some pretty good athletes.

In universities (and society at large), we do make subsidies to things we don’t use. The why-should-I-pay-for-something-I-don’t-use argument is only valid if one is ready to apply that logic to the programs that you do use (and/or care about) as well.

AT September 16, 2008 at 3:29 am

From what I know, the NCAA mandates that equal funding goes into male and female athletics. This is one of the reasons behind the recent phenomenon of Canadian girls taking soccer scholarships at universities in the American south — so much money is being sunk into the football programs (male, naturally) that it has to be made up on the female side, and soccer is a premier women’s sport.

. September 23, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Why UBC Should Not Join the NCAA

By Blake Frederick

The issue of whether or not UBC should join the NCAA has been around for years and the discussion is reaching a peak with major consultations set to occur. I’ve been to a consultation meeting already and through my discussions with people on all sides of this issue, I think I’ve heard all of the major arguments for and against. Based on what I’ve heard, I think that joining the NCAA is bad for students.

Without getting too much into the details, UBC-V has 361 athletes competing on 8 men’s varsity sports teams and 9 women’s teams. The varsity teams are members of either Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In 2008, the NCAA Division II members voted to accept a 10-year pilot project to allow Canadian institutions to apply for membership. This has opened the door for UBC to apply for Division II, a desire that has motivated by the Athletics and Rec department since the 1990’s.

. October 24, 2008 at 9:55 am

The Athletics and Recreation fee has been controversial ever since its introduction in 1985. As a fee imposed by the Board of Governors, there has been very little student input into the collection of this fee, the amount charged, or its uses. As a result, it has increased by a monstrous 481% over a 23 year span. This is the equivalent of a yearly compound increase of 8% for more than two decades. Of the approximately $5.8M that will be collected this year on behalf of athletics, 80% or more will go into the Varsity program to benefit a few hundred students, leaving only a small contribution to serve the recreation needs of the many thousands of UBC students who play intramurals, go to the aquatic centre, work out at the Birdcoop, or go to drop-in at the SRC.

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