Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cutting the Meat, Not the Fat: The Wrong Approach

(October 2008)
Promoting running for youth is at the tip of the spear in the ARA campaign to improve the physical activity levels of America’s Youth. The sport of Cross Country is one of our platforms to showcase how running can make you more fit, a better student and help you set lofty goals. So when I read that another college administrator could be sharpening the budget axe to let it fall on the men’s’ cross country and track & field programs, it makes me fume. I’m not an alumnus at Delaware. I am not an alumnus of James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg VA. I was just as perturbed and dumbfounded two years ago, when the Board of Regents at JMU decided to drop 7 men’s sports, notables being men’s’ cross country , track & field, and swimming. These are life sports. That’s what we call running and swimming. They stay with you for life and can form a basis of vigorous exercise well into your senior years.

Do you know what it costs to operate cross country and track & field year-round at a mid-major university? Would you be surprised to know that the figure at Delaware is less than $100K? When administrators explain their budgetary reasons behind a sports program’s cut, the convenient excuse or punching bag is Title IX. The landmark 70s education guidelines have had their positive effect on the growth of women’s sports. Those of us who competed at the earliest stages of Title IX would agree that it has greatly expanded sports participations for girls in high school and women in college. Unfortunately, Title IX is the fall guy when it comes to collegiate athletic department cuts. Why does Title IX even get brought into the discussion when a college or university wants to adjust, cut or move around budgeted monies in an athletic department?

Football is often the answer. If a college or university wants to expand its program and lure more alumni donations, increased spending is inevitable. If the decision is made to upgrade the football program and there is no endowed fund to cover the non-revenue sports, then out comes Title IX to assist the Athletic Department in making the necessary budget adjustments.

As advocates for running for both boys and girls, men and women, American Running is firmly in favor of equal opportunities to run. Cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Nothing is more pure with such a wide open door for participants. Let’s not let the non-runners dictate points of access for the boys, girls, men and women who want to compete in a sport that is a life sport.

Put away your axe Delaware. Find ways to raise funds to keep the cross country and track programs going. That’s the way to keep a sport alive.

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