Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass varsity teams: a source of student debt or school pride?

It’s irresponsible for UMass to spend our resources this way

Judith Gibson-Okunieff

Judith Gibson-Okunieff

By Aidan Byrne, Collegian columnist

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Let’s state the obvious here: The University of Massachusetts has never been known for its athletic prowess. Ignoring the basketball team’s (vacated) Final Four appearance 20 years ago, at the best of times, athletics at UMass can be described as average, if not slightly below average, compared to other large state schools in the United States. As a result, it comes as a surprise to no one that our sports teams aren’t the money-printing machines that other universities enjoy, such as the University of Texas at Austin, whose athletic program earned their university $182.1 million in 2017. The sports teams that traditionally bring in substantial amount of revenue to other universities—men’s football, hockey and basketball—have been huge money pits for UMass. Basketball has been the only team out of these three to consistently put together winning seasons within the last decade, but they still aren’t serious contenders for a national title. UMass hockey hasn’t had a winning season since 2006-07, and the football team hasn’t had a winning season since 2010.

Barring a Rick Pitino return to UMass basketball, bringing his questionable Louisville recruiting tactics with him, it seems highly unlikely that any UMass men’s varsity sports team will become a Division I powerhouse in the near future. There is hope for UMass athletics, though. Several UMass club sports teams do have a history of dominance, such as ZooDisc, the men’s ultimate frisbee team. However, ZooDisc athletes don’t get the average $15,342 scholarships that the athletes on our unsuccessful varsity sports teams receive. Being on the ultimate frisbee team is extremely expensive, and all players on the team have to pay their own way in order to play. These costs can exceed $1,500 per season, including airfare, hotel room fees and food costs, as the team competes in many big tournaments across the country during a season. Despite barely any financial support from the University, ZooDisc has consistently produced stellar results, even placing third at the 2017 national championship tournament. To compare, UMass football had a budget of nearly $4.5 million, with $2.3 million being earmarked for scholarships in 2012, and the team produced a disgraceful record of 1-11. In the same year, UMass hockey had a budget of $1.4 million and UMass basketball had a budget of nearly $2.5 million.

The UMass athletics department is well known for its uncanny ability to run on a deficit.”

All of this spending wouldn’t be a big deal if UMass sports teams could generate their own revenue and pay for themselves through avenues such as ticket sales, TV deals or sponsorships. Unfortunately, this is not the case for UMass, as the state of Massachusetts and undergraduate students ultimately have to bear the brunt of the costs for the shortcomings of UMass sports teams. The UMass athletics department is well known for its uncanny ability to run a deficit. Even when UMass athletics does “make revenue,” in reality a large chunk of the revenue traditionally comes from either direct institutional support, which is largely made up of money from student fees or the government. In 2015 the athletic department generated $36.5 million of total revenue, with $16.8 million of this revenue coming from direct institutional support. Out of this $16.8 million, approximately $8.1 million came from student fees that UMass students were forced to pay. Only $1.6 million of revenue was actually contributed from ticket sales.

Who is this money really benefiting other than a handful of student athletes and athletic staff? In my opinion, it’s irresponsible for UMass to spend our resources in this way, as the majority of students couldn’t care less about our terrible sports teams. You could make the argument that having sports teams is essential to the student experience in college and that students take pride in their athletic teams, and if you were talking about most Division I schools, you would be 100 percent correct. However, we are talking about UMass here, which is probably one of the few schools in America where the marching band is the main attraction, and the football team is more of a lackluster opening act at games. You couldn’t pay most tailgaters to actually go in and sit through the full 60 minutes of a football game. The same goes for most basketball and hockey games. Athletic events at UMass are more of an excuse for students to get drunk with their buddies than a source of college pride. University administration should be allocating more resources to teams that are actual sources of school pride, such as the ZooDisc team, or trying to cut the cost of tuition for students. Let’s stop spending so many resources on varsity athletics.

 Aidan Byrne is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

21 Comments

21 Responses to “UMass varsity teams: a source of student debt or school pride?”

  1. bk on April 12th, 2018 3:26 pm

    As a UMass alum, I am dumbfounded by this article. Good to see the Collegian is still doing well!

  2. Mark Eisenberg on April 12th, 2018 3:59 pm

    Classic example of someone who hates athletes and uses the vendetta to write a pathetic article. When will people stop trying to get rid of things simply because they don’t like them? You seriously are going to mention ZooDisc while claiming that no one cares about real sports? The writing quality at The Collegian must have decreased drastically since 2007 when I graduated. A university is a community. Somethings aren’t for everyone, just accept that and move on. I didn’t complain about some of my student costs going to departments I didn’t care about when I was a student. Grow up Aiden! Collegian, get better material/writers and quit embarrassing our school paper.

    Mark E.
    Class of 2007

  3. Ryan Pedrick on April 12th, 2018 4:06 pm

    What a disgrace. There are varsity sports with numerous A-10 championships that get far less than $15,000 in scholarship.

  4. Casey Ransford on April 12th, 2018 6:40 pm

    As a member of the Men’s Swim and Dive team here at UMass I think it is important to point out that the majority of scholarship money I am receiving is academic based and was earned for my performance in the classroom and not in the pool. Along with that I think it’s important to recognize that no one on the men’s swim team receives more than the $15000+ average that was alluded to, and that this is the case for other teams on campus as well. In the case of both the men’s and women’s swim team, as well as other teams, we actually receive a majority of our funds from alumni donation and not from the student fees mentioned in the article. To read about the club frisbee teams success was great, but when mentioning that they “pay their own way” it should be recognized that: 1.) ultimate frisbee is not an NCAA recognized sport 2.) it is a club team similar to youth soccer where members must pay there own way as well. I’m not saying it’s not okay to be frustrated with the state of the athletic department, but to compare UMass, a mid major school, to Texas, one of the most successful athletic programs in the nation, seems harsh and one sided.

  5. Alyssa on April 12th, 2018 7:16 pm

    This is an extremely biased article. I am a UMass Amherst student-athlete alumni. I take pride in my sport and what I did for my program. You’re forgetting the sports that ARE successful. Lacrosse teams, women’s field hockey, women’s rowing, swimming and diving, softball, soccer is well on its way. We have students that dedicate their entire college careers to their sports. You think that should be taken away from them because we have revenue sports that can’t produce? Completely unfair. And how do you expect us to attract top notch athletes for those revenue sports without having the amenities or support staff to bring them here? Everything the school is doing is a building process. Yeah, it may take a long time, but nothing happens overnight. Bamford has made big changes to get these programs to turn around. I don’t care if you care about “our terrible sports teams” because all that matters is the student athletes who do care and would give their entire lives for what they are doing. If you don’t like it, go to a big sports school where you will feel like you aren’t being “as affected” by the varsity sports teams. If you don’t want to leave, don’t complain.

  6. Ollie on April 12th, 2018 7:37 pm

    Where did these terrible statistics come from? UMass has, and still have, many successful teams. Some of these teams were unfortunately cut such as the waterpolo team. Waterpolo had multiple NCAA appearances. You shouldn’t need to be reminded that NCAA competitions only reflect the top 16 schools too. Could you name the other 346 colleges which compete directly alongside UMass in D1? I know that many lacrosse fans could note that our women’s lacrosse frequently rank in the top 16. On top of that, many of our teams are actually self-sufficient on alumni contributions. Many of these teams also don’t even indulge in the luxury of air travel for their competitions. Some drive up to 10 hours to reach conference championships. I appreciate your opinion concerning club sports and their hard work but you are discrediting many successful teams and athletes that this school has produced. Especially when these teams face hardships on their own.

  7. Harry Ortof on April 12th, 2018 8:31 pm

    Why are you singling out UMass Athletics only as wasting school money? As stated by Business Insider, only 24 Division 1 schools out of 231 profit off of their athletic teams. I don’t understand why you believe an intramural sport that isn’t even recognized by the NCAA deserves any money, because your sport won’t bring in any revenue either. Almost all the teams with the exception of Football and Basketball get almost no scholarship money, and the money they do get is split between 10-20 athletes (most never receive more than $2500). Almost all the Olympic sports have won or placed in the Atlantic 10 conference within the last 5 years. Swimming, Indoor Track, Tennis, Rowing, Men’s Soccer, Softball, and BOTH lacrosse teams are highly competitive. We do this because we have a deep appreciation for our sports, not for the money.

    But by all means, please continue to tell us how nationally recognized programs deserve less funding and recognition than intramural sports (that are for fun).

  8. Liam Gallinagh on April 17th, 2018 3:22 pm

    I just want to start by saying I don’t necessarily agree with everything in this article and I am in no way trying to start an argument. As current Zoodisc player, I would just like to mention that we are a club sport here on campus and not an intermural sport. We have a rigorous tryout process and only a select few are invited to play for the team. We are extremely dedicated to the sport and practice on a regular basis year-round. Feel free to contact the team if you’d like to observe a tryout, or even attend a tournament being held on campus May 5-6th to learn more about the sport.

  9. Kate Dorsey on April 12th, 2018 9:03 pm

    A lot of information in this article is confusing. My first concern is why are you providing data from 2012? That was 6 years ago and is heavily outdated. As an athlete, sport management major, and currently enrolled in the class College Athletics there is a lot of incorrect information in this article. Your stat about the average scholarship each athlete receives is generalized from the entire NCAA which accounts for the millions that the Power 5 conferences are drawing in. Some of our sports here receive no scholarship money and the ones that do can only afford to give a handful of elite athletes around $2,500 (http://ope.ed.gov/athletics/). Football and basketball remain the only exceptions.

    You also cite a lack of success from our athletic programs. I would like to point to Men’s Soccer’s NCAA appearance as well as their A-10 victory along with Softball, both Lacrosse teams (women had an NCAA Elite 8 appearance), Women’s Rowing, and Women’s Tennis who all had A-10 victories in the last year. Women and men’s indoor track and men’s swimming all had top-3 A-10 finishes in the last 3 years. As well as multiple individual NCAA appearances from those 2 sports(Heather MacLean, Emma Roush, Maja Boric, and Meriza Werenski to name a few).

    You fail to mention that although UMass pays student fees for athletics, every other D1 school in the country ALSO pays student fees as only 20 of the 231 FBS D1 schools bring in a profit from athletics (Business Insider, 2016). Despite ZooDisc placing in the top 3 at nationals, this isn’t an NCAA sport and even if all the intramurals were to receive school funding over the NCAA sports, those teams would not pull in any more money than the official NCAA sports at UMass.

    But please, lets all believe that intramurals (made for those who don’t want the rigor and dedication of division one athletics) deserve the funding the athletic teams receive.

    *also keep in mind that if this were to ever happen, I can guarantee that almost every UMass athlete would quit their respected sports and tryout for the funded club sports effectively removing the club athletes from their sports (because there’s a reason we’re division one athletes).

  10. Liam Gallinagh on April 17th, 2018 3:25 pm

    My apologies, but Zoodisc is a club sport not an intermural. There are very rigorous tryouts and practice on a regular basis year-round. Everyone on the team is an extremely dedicated athlete.

  11. Jen on April 12th, 2018 9:38 pm

    What is irresponsible about this is your obvious lack of knowledge about college athletics in general and UMass in particular. Please, if you are going to try to influence people, please do your research and use actual facts to make your point. It doesnt do the players any good to see this kind of drivel posted in their newspapers. You should also attend a game or two before you decide you are the moral arbiter of UMass Football and UMass Basketball.

  12. Matt Ruane on April 12th, 2018 10:17 pm

    Perhaps the worst article of have ever read . I’m sure the writer is a frustrated athlete that never competed a day in his life . Horrendous that you allow this to be published

  13. Thomas O'Donoghue on April 12th, 2018 10:48 pm

    This article is a joke. you clearly have done little to no research on where the money is spent.

  14. Jack on April 12th, 2018 11:30 pm

    Daily Collegian. You guys may want to start to fact check your writers articles. Me. Byrne here clearly is discouraged because his frisbee toss team doesn’t get funded. Well that’s not a reason to let him post an article ripping into the schools athletic department, especially one with so many incorrect and misstated facts. UMass athletics saw 4 A-10 champs this year, 3 NCAA tournament appearances. They also saw 3 other top 5 finishes. Yes, UMASS athletics doesn’t profit, but zero D1 universities do. I don’t know where his University if Texas Austin fact comes from but it is far from correct. The only profitable D1 school is Grand Canyon University, and they made under 2 million. So I’m sorry that the NCAA doesn’t consider your frisbee crew a sport, but get on with your life, and don’t come at the heads of athletes at this school. Disappointing to see such a poorly researched and misconstrued article written

  15. Robert Owens on April 13th, 2018 1:08 am

    Honestly, I find this enfuriating. Congrats to Zoodisc, who I’m sure you’re either closely affialiated to or maybe a part of, but if players in frisbee had a potential in a professional career like football, basketball or hockey players do I’m sure the university would be more than willing to fund that sport. What you are not taking into account is the potential return that these investments create. If even one player from any scholarship athletic team goes professional or makes a living in that business, that could lead to potentially millions in future donations and support for the school. If you feel like you’re being “forced” to pay for mediocre athletics, then transfer to another school where you’ll be “forced” to pay for better athletics and pay for tickets to all sporting events on top of that. You’re not taking into account the reality and the business that NCAA sports have become. What you don’t realize is that what you receive in academic scholarships, many of the atheletes had to sacrifice In order to earn athletic scholarships. You have no right to take away the achievements and hard work of these athletes and you should be ashamed if you think you do have that right. I’m glad you brought up the fact that the football and basketball teams are not what you wanted in your college expierience, and while these teams may not be particularly successful, have you checked into the success of any of the other athletic teams? The UMass men’s swim team has won 16 A-10 championships. I am not a student at UMass, but the arrogancy of this is astounding and I really hope you think a little, and do more research outside of your Amherst bubble before you post something like this again.

  16. Kevin on April 13th, 2018 2:24 am

    Did you honestly just try and make the case that ultimate frisbee players should be given better treatment than DI athletes on teams actually sponsored by the NCAA… Athletes who have devoted most of their young adult lives to competing at the highest levels of their sport?

  17. Athlete on April 13th, 2018 10:41 am

    This article is absolutely ridiculous. You have a point about our main teams underproducing but seem to forget about all of the other varsity sports at UMass that have great success while being severely underfunded. There is a reason the “zoodisc” CLUB team gets no money…because it is not a real sport in the NCAA and therefore the school does not give money to it. Nobody cares about your zoodisc team any more than the REAL varsity teams the school has. What makes you think they should get money over the good teams that could use more than their 1 scholarship of funding? If you are going to write a terrible article you should keep it to yourself to save yourself the embarrassment.

  18. Boss HOG on April 13th, 2018 11:20 am

    We outta eat more hog and argue less

  19. Robert Shapiro on April 13th, 2018 12:41 pm

    Finally an argument to put it all together, with a minuscule portion of these funds this school could create the best Ultimate program in the country hands down. That’s all it takes, just a small amount of money put in the right hands, money that’s being wasted on countless ineffective programs. Not asking for sweeping changes that would present substantial risk, just a step in the right direction to benefit a sport that encompasses principles we can all learn from and deserves a bigger spotlight.

  20. John on April 13th, 2018 3:22 pm

    did you really just compare the football team/basketball team to ultimate frisbee?

  21. Shannon on April 16th, 2018 11:36 pm

    There are a few MAJOR flaws with this article
    1. Comparing a mid-major school to a power 5 conference school is literally comparing apples to oranges. Makes no sense. It would be the same as comparing Kentucky to Harvard….it’s just not logical.
    2. Stats from 2012 help no one, I’m sure there are facts about the 2016 fiscal year out there.
    3. Based on the logic used, you’re sayinng ZooDisk would generate revenue for the athletic department that wouldn’t get paid for the national championships you’d be attending. (When NCAA sanctioned sports go to championships, travel is taken care of).
    4. Seems like you just want ultimate frisbee to be an NCAA sport, in which case…you’re barking up the wrong tree

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