Our athletic department needs more money. One plan that has been proposed is the construction of luxury boxes at the Big House. A recent Daily editorial (Saving the Big House, 10/10/2005) denounced the idea, arguing, among other things, that these boxes would ruin the tradition of our sacred stadium. But I ask you: How would they do that?

Luxury boxes in the stadium would neither erase the team’s 11 national championships, nor void a single one of its bowl appearances. Players who won the Heisman while donning the maize and blue would not have their award stripped. Nor would the changes affect the time-honored tradition of tailgaiting. The editorial mentions that the only logo in the stadium is the field’s block M, that there are no banners. That would still be true, as well.

The other argument against the construction of these boxes is that the Athletic Department, currently operating a “multi-million-dollar operating surplus,” does not need the added revenue that would be generated by the project. The department did indeed project a $2.4 million surplus for the 2005 fiscal year, down from $8 million the year before. But it is important to remember that the department was in the red when Athletic Director Bill Martin took over and that he has stressed that it is a struggle to balance the department’s budget every year. Add to that the fact that there are expensive renovations, which the Daily has admitted are necessary for the Big House, and it is hard to argue that the department is guaranteed to continue running such a surplus.

This is especially true given that the Athletic Department is under pressure not to renew its Nike contract when it comes to an end in 2008. The contract provides $2 million in cash annually, on top of $1.2 million worth of equipment, thus being worth $3.2 million – more than 2005’s operating surplus.

There are small club teams on campus that deserve to be varsity sports. One example is the men’s rowing team, which has finished in the nation’s top 10 multiple times while competing against teams with full varsity funding. And, because of Title IX, it is necessary for the Athletic Department to bump up a woman’s team along with a men’s team. This means that the department would have to add the budgets of two, not one, varsity programs to its budget. It is not simply a matter of allocation of funds. The department would be reckless in promising two new teams full funding from here to eternity because it has run a small surplus the last few years, especially considering that it was absolutely unable to do so only a few years prior.

The Daily wants the Athletic Department to fund a project that will cost tens of millions of dollars through alumni donations. These alumni would be expected to donate millions more year after year to prop up the Athletic Department. The department can’t continue to have its contract with Nike, it can’t advertise in the stadium, it surely can’t take money from our tuition. So, from where is it to get money? Let it build luxury boxes, they aren’t going to hurt you.

Reggie Brown is an LSA junior, a Daily editorial board member and has been a member of the men’s rowing team. He can be reached at reginalb@umich.edu

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