College Sports Are Big Business. Which Is Fine. Until Someone's Feelings Are Hurt.

posted by Mo Egger, ESPN1530 - 

College sports are big business.  You and I both know it. Even more, you and I are okay with it.  You know that NCAA Tournament we love so much? Big business.  The new arenas and stadiums we demand? Big business. Those coaches we deify and demand things like pay raises and private planes on behalf of? You got it.

Big business.

Big business decisions are made with only a few things in mind. Revenue. Cost-effectiveness. Return on investment. The bottom line.  Your favorite college sports programs are run just like the companies we work for.  They're sure as Hell run just like the company I work for.

Notice that I didn't use the word "fairness?" Or make mention of anyone's feelings? 

The University of Cincinnati has made some business decisions that some are butt-hurt over.  The men's basketball team is being housed temporarily next year at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University while UC's Fifth Third Arena undergoes renovations.  The decision to move Mick Cronin's team to Highland Heights for a season was, whether you liked it or not, a business decision.  Both schools have deemed the move to be a reasonably cost-effective one, with potential bottom-line benefits in both the short and long term.

Meanwhile, the UC women's basketball and volleyball teams will be playing next season at St. Ursula Academy. Fairness, or lack thereof, is being cited. Feelings are hurt. From The Cincinnati Enquirer...

"This is yet another indicator of the lack of respect for the women’s teams," said Tamaya Dennard, a donor to the UC women's basketball program. "That gym is not for a Division I athlete. They have no business playing there."

"They work hard, they put their bodies on the line, and they are expected to perform on and off the basketball court," Dennard said. "There’s no reason they should not be afforded the same opportunity as the men....."

....Cheryl Cooky, an associate professor at Purdue University, said how UC is treating its women's basketball team is against the law. She is an expert on Title IX, which ensures universities provide all student-athletes equitable access to resources including facilities, equipment, practice times and coaching. The federal law was passed in 1972 on the heels of incidents in which colleges were discriminating against women.

"The fact that this is even within the realm of possibility ... speaks to the value that we place on women’s sports in our culture," Cooky said. "Even in 2017 women are still second-class citizens in the world of collegiate athletics....."

“.......You don't have to have a law degree to see this isn't equal," said Hogshead-Makar, who's also the CEO of Champion Women, a national advocacy group for girls and women in sports. "If you ask the men would they switch, what would they say? That answers the basic fairness question.”

There's more, this in an editorial piece in The Enquirer from Byron McCauley....

This issue goes way beyond sports. It has picked the scabs off deep and old wounds. Twelve years ago, Nike produced an iconic ad campaign called “If you let us play sports.” In TV commercials, girls looked us in the eye and told us playing sports will make them confident, healthy and successful. Women and girls matter.  Girls are strong. Girls can do and be anything. I sincerely believe that, and that’s what I convey to my own daughters every chance I get.

Maybe that's why I'm struggling so much with where the UC women playing next year.

I can't challenge anything that's said in either piece, other than Oscar Robertson's proposed solution for doubleheaders, which would seem impossible given that BB&T Arena would essentially be hosting two men's and two women's teams simultaneously. Aside from that, is there some unfairness? Sure. Would it be ideal on some level if the commitment that women put into their sports were rewarded the same way it is for the men? Yeah. Is the wrong message being sent here to Mr. McCauley's daughters? I guess.

The underlying theme of every gripe about where the UC women will play next year is that a business decision was made at the expense of fairness, that basic ideals of amateur sports are being sacrificed for the bottom line.

Which, they are.

Which, we're okay with.

Until someone's feelings are hurt.

You don't need me to outline for you the difference in the way men's and women's basketball games are staged.  The UC men draw more fans - by a factor of over 8,000 on average - than the women do.  There are larger media, sponsor, and fan accommodation considerations that aren't there as much for women's games. A bigger building with larger staffing is required to host a UC men's game.  The women can - for a year - hold their events at a smaller venue. 

Those are just an economic and practical realities. The kind of realities we've come accept in every facet of college sports.

I don't know what specifics went into Mike Bohn and his staff determining that St. Ursula will be the temporary home of Bearcats women's hoops and volleyball.  I'm led to believe that the cost-effectiveness and logistical impact of playing at other venues was measured against the return on investment that both women's programs provide. Numbers were crunched. Figures were exchanged. Budgets were compared. A decision was made.

A business decision.

The same type business decision that will have the men's and women's basketball teams as well as the volleyball team playing in a modernized Fifth Third Arena after next season. The same type of business decision that has almost completely changed the look, feel, and competitiveness of nearly every conference. The same type of business decision that has coaches, and increasingly, players hopscotching around the country chasing better opportunities. The same type of business decision that schools make with apparel companies. The same type of business decision that gives us nearly three whole weeks of non-stop postseason basketball games being played at such odd times that academic progress can't help but be affected.

We're okay with all of that. In most cases, we want all of that. 

I do have a degree of sympathy for the women's basketball team at UC specifically.  The women work every bit as hard as the men do, and I know first hand what it's like to bust your ass just as much as your counterparts do, only to get their table-scraps. 

But a long time ago, it was decided that college athletics were big business. And not long thereafter, we all decided that we would be more than okay with what college sports were becoming, understanding that those business-based decisions would usually come at the expense of something. 

Sometimes, tradition. At times, competitiveness.  Other times, academics. 

This time, UC's women's basketball and volleyball teams. 

Mo Egger

Mo Egger

Mo Egger delivers his unique take on sports on Cincinnati's ESPN 1530! Read more

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