There has been a growing trend among top educational institutions as they seem to prioritize athletics over education. Troy seems to be falling victim to this trend as we have unfortunately been promoting sporting events over academia.
According to a report by USA Today, Troy spent $27.3 million during the academic year between 2015-2016 on athletics. This included scholarships, stipends and salaries of coaching staff. The same report shows a larger problem as $19.9 million of that was covered using university-allocated expenses.
In April 2017, the Tropolitan reported on how the athletic training department had one adviser working with 215 students, as it was not adequately staffed. A fraction of the money spent on athletics could be used to fund such departments that are understaffed or in need of resources.
While financial statistics show how much money is being pumped into athletics, the larger problem lies in creating a school atmosphere where education sometimes plays a secondary role to sporting events.
Last year, when Troy’s football team played at the University of South Alabama, students were excused from classes, which left some professors scrambling to reschedule tests to accommodate the event.
Athletes are also given priority for class registration before seniors and students in the honors program. One has to wonder why some students who have priorities outside the classroom get to register before others whose primary incentive is education.
There is a systematic issue with American collegiate athletics where university sports teams are structured the same way professional teams are, which leads to universities pursuing athletics to receive national recognition. The best example of this is to consider that with an annual pay package of $11.6 million, Nick Saban, the head football coach of the University of Alabama, is the highest-paid sports coach in the United States according to sbnation.com.
Universities that are part of the Ivy League division of the NCAA have shifted their priorities completely to education over the years. All of the eight schools in this division, including Harvard University, Columbia University and Yale University, no longer award scholarships based solely on sporting merits. The priority for students, whether they are student athletes or not, is education.
This is reflected in the way these schools pay their coaches. According to a report in the Brown Daily Herald, the average Ivy League coach was paid $81,788. In contrast, the average salary of a football coach in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is a staggering $4.1 million. The Daily Advertiser reported that the lowest salary in the Sun Belt Conference is $360,000.
As Troy University continues making strides in its athletic programs, it is important that the administration ensures we do not end up being a school that will be recognized as a sporting powerhouse instead of an educational institution. There needs to be a large overhaul in the NCAA structure where colleges need to ensure that resources aren’t just a way for the association to make billions of dollars.
Ivy League schools that have taken account of this have shown how it is possible to provide the best athletic infrastructure and experience with a lower budget. All eight schools in this division are consistently ranked as the best educational institutions in the world.
Let us keep this in mind and ensure we do not exemplify the satirical phrase that is now famously used to criticize the prioritizing of athletics by educational institutions: “Education is important, but biceps are important-er.”