From Left Field
By BOB SHRALUKA
If you are a college student and your school's basketball team is in the NCAA or any other post-season tournament, you might as well root 'em on. You're likely helping pay the team's way ... as well as the scholarships provided the players.
In a revealing piece written by Sean Gregory in the March 25 edition (dated ahead) of Time magazine, it is noted that a sports watchdog group polled some 4,000 students of schools in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). They were asked if they knew a significant portion of their annual student fees helped fund their school's athletic department.
Some 40 percent said they were totally unaware that their fees — which are not part of tuition payments — were funding sports. And those that did know, Gregory wrote, had no idea how much their were paying to fund the athletes and their programs.
How much? As an example, the article cited Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where $950 of a student's annual $1,796 fee helps pay for athletic scholarships, salaries of coaches, and other sports-related programs and activities.
As Gregory says, given the enormous television fees, the mind-boggling ticket prices, etc., one gets the impression that athletic departments are paying their own way. Not so. According to USA Today, of 227 public institutions playing Division 1 sports, only 22 have self-sufficient athletic departments. (Three of the 22 are Ohio State, Texas and Florida.)
Gregory cites a January report from the American Institutes for Research which points out that athletic subsidies jumped 61 percent from 2005 to 2010 ... while per-student academic spending rose only 23 percent.
Sports budgets in the MAC — a league with the mid-major label, meaning a notch below the Big Ten, Southeast Athletic Conference, etc. — grew 29 percent from 2006 to 2011, according to USA Today. And 75 percent of those sports budgets are funded by subsidies.
Many supporters of the system defend it by underscoring the recognition and publicity sports brings to a school, which in turn can boost donations and enrollment numbers. And that is often the case ... if the department is highly successful. Obviously, a great majority are not.
Okay, we did it. We left IU the last team standing in our brackets. And, no, it wasn't to keep the friendship of all the IU fans. The feeling just exists that now that the real season is here, these guys will put the hammer down and leave it there.
When the big guy is focused — and they get him the ball; not always the case — the Hoosiers are a team hard to handle. It would seem, too, that Cody Zeller will be focused since this is, no doubt, his last time around.
Plus, you have to love their deep bench. That Sheehy dude is as good as there is coming off the bench (chair, actually). On the other hand, if Jordy Hulls doesn't find his game somewhere soon, IU is in deep do-do because everyone is going to fall back and surround Zeller.
Some other hoops observations:
• Ohio State could win it all. The Buckeyes are rolling now and their defense — that Craft character has four hands — is about as good as it gets.
• The Big Ten — and hasn't it been fun watching those games this season? — could dominate the tournament like the SEC dominates football. Wisconsin is tough and that deliberate stuff drives teams nuts. Minnesota is a good as anyone ... when the Gophers want to play, or when Tubby doesn't screw things up. Then there's those teams from up north, Michigan — you know, the ones with the most gawd-awful unies since the cave people first starting covering themselves with furs — and Michigan St.
• Personally, we'd be happiest if Gonzaga won the big prize. The Zags have as good a frontcourt as you can find anywhere in the country, and Kelly Olynk can match up anyone. Given the marvelous season he's had, the 7-foot Olynk may establish a new trend in college basketball. After putting in two full seasons with the Zags, he red-shirted, using the time to bulk up, get quicker and mature. Now he's a sure-fire first team All America.
The Zags are anything but an all American team. Olynk is one of two Canadians on the roster which also includes players from Germany, Poland and France.
Now that's diversity!