By Jeremy Twitchell
Call it selling out, call it pandering, call it whatever you want. The fact is, the changes to LaVell Edwards Stadium that the BYU athletic department announced last week are necessary.
To be honest, I never thought I”d be writing a column to defend BYU. Yet, here I am. As much I don”t like being thought of as BYU”s loyal attack dog, I can justify it because this decision really is in the best interest of the football team and the athletic program as a whole.
The center sections of the stadium”s east side have been prime real estate for students since they were put in. My best seats last season were right in the middle of section 34, which will belong to the Cougar Club come next season, so I can understand student frustration with turning the area over to alumni with deep pockets. They may pay for the team, but we students are the ones who support it.
But the sad fact about college athletics is that they are driven by money, and students can”t foot the bill.
You want someone to blame for that? Don”t blame BYU. Blame the BCS. Ever since that beast assumed total control of college athletics, schools left out in the cold have been forced to scramble for funding to survive.
Every year, the Sears Director”s Cup program measures the overall success of each university”s athletic program. BYU consistently provides the most bang for its buck. In 2000-2001, BYU finished at No. 17 for the year, with a total budget of just over $20 million. The collective spending average of the other top 20 teams was about $36 million. One school, Ohio State, spent more than three times as much as BYU.
BYU athletics have done a lot with a little in the past, but times are changing. Money is becoming the driving force of college athletics, and even though the purists don”t like it, BYU can either play along or lay out as a Division I doormat. Let”s see how effective a missionary tool the sports teams are then.
Cougar fans were ecstatic last week with the signing of Ofa Mohetau and his big boy posse. Mohetau had Miami, Arizona State and Texas banging down his door as well. Granted he”s LDS, but in all honesty, that”s not a big enough edge for BYU to land every blue-chipper who goes to the local chapel on Sunday. Running a competitive recruiting program takes a lot of money, and that money isn”t coming from any source outside what the athletic program can bring in.
If BYU fans don”t pony up the dough, who will? This isn”t a matter of raising ticket prices because the team was good last year, it”s a matter of raising them because if BYU doesn”t, the team won”t be good in the future.
The All-Sports Card is going up again. It was $50 my freshman year, and it will be $85 next year. It”s a dent in my already beat-up wallet, but of course I”ll pay it. For anyone who refuses, I challenge you to find another university where you can get a season ticket for every sport for $85, especially one with a program that”s as high-profile as BYU”s. Most other universities charge that much for a few football tickets.
So if you want to support BYU athletics, it takes more than showing up at a game when you don”t have any homework and yelling. Put your money where your mouth is.