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The Ripple Effect

August 29, 2003

Mary Ann Travis and Arthur Nead
tulanian@tulane.edu
Michael DeMocker

The Tulane Boards June 10 decision to keep Tulane competing in Division I-A intercollegiate athletics while meeting budgetary goals garnered a range of reactions from euphoria to dismay, from confidence to indifference to skepticism.

tulsum03_ripple_1"What I feel is relief, elation and appreciation for everyone who stepped up. This is a special place. There's no utopia, but this is as close as it gets. It's hard to fathom coaching in a setting better than this one. I tell a recruit, when you come to Tulane, you're going to get one of the top degrees in the country, even in the world. Anyone who knows anything about higher education will know that you got a great education. You're going to play in a nationally prominent baseball program with a chance each and every year to ascend to the College World Series and play in the NCAA tournament. And you're going to have a fan base that's going to be tremendous. This is something we all wanted to preserve because nobody wanted to go anywhere else."

RICK JONES, head baseball coach. He has seen steady growth in the program since he arrived 10 years ago when baseball season ticket sales were fewer than 100; now they're nearly 2,000. The grade point average of his players last year was 3.3.

"We're all athletes. We're all fighters. We thrive on competition."

LISA STOCKTON, head women's basketball coach, on how all the athletics coaches pulled together during the review process and in their pumped-up fundraising.

"We have to shoot the ducks while they're flying."

JIM WILSON (B' 58), Tulane Board member and the man for whom the James W. Wilson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center is named, on the importance of asking the newly awakened and passionate Tulane fans to step up their support for athletics now while they are riled up. He's confident the support will be sufficient if it's tapped into right away.

"We're happy."

MATT MANN, baseball player, and IVAN PJEVCEVIC, basketball player, about the board's decision. They are A. B. Freeman School of Business seniors majoring in accounting and finance.

"I'm glad the guys can stay together."

WAITARI MARSH (UC '03), former Green Wave basketball player, on his delight that his younger, former teammates will continue as a team. He graduated in four years with a degree in media arts. He's still hoping for a National Basketball Association career. This summer he headed to Europe to check out professional playing opportunities there.

"It's about competing well--with good kids. These Tulane athletes are the kind of kid you'd be happy to bring home to meet your mom or dad. It's about being proud. It's easy to pull for LSU. There's no risk-reward in that. With Tulane, you're pulling for the underdog, the unlikely team."

JOHN KOCH (A&S '72, B '78), on why he loves Green Wave teams. He attended the rally in front of Gibson Hall on June 9 and was outside the Diboll Complex when board chair John Koerner announced the decision to keep Tulane in Division I-A.

"Earning your degree by playing sports is a hell of a way to do it. What's really interesting is that the scholar-athletes pretty much know that nine out of 10 of them will be professionals in an area outside of sports."

DAVID LEIVA (UC '03), on how hard it is for student-athletes who are expected to produce both in and outside the classroom. He had classes with many of them.

"I believe that throughout the entire process the students did want the institution to remain a Division I school."

JAMES WHITE, Tulane College senior and Associated Student Body president

"I don't feel as though it affects me at all."

CHRISTINA ALLEN, Newcomb College senior, on her opinion of the athletics decision. A political science and history double-major, she's never been to a game of any Tulane sport.

"What we discovered is that academic factors (e.g., academic reputation, types of programs offered, quality of faculty, quality of academic facilities, etc.) are the real drivers in the decision-making process. Our current recruitment effort is focused on these items already so we won't be making many changes in the 'message' to the marketplace."

RICHARD WHITESIDE, vice president for enrollment management and admission, on the study he conducted last fall. He presented the results to the ad hoc committee about the importance of intercollegiate athletics in the college-decision process and his undergraduate admission recruitment strategy for the future.

"I'm only half-joking when I say that we would have gone into hurricane shut-down mode at the Alumni House if the decision had gone another way. Close the shutters, unplug the phones and the e-mail, and take Bea Field's picture down from the wall. It's the high graduation rate of our student-athletes that needs to be our focus. Sure, it's great when the baseball team goes to Omaha and so many of our other teams go to NCAA playoffs. But it's even better to meet these former athletes as alumni and to see the extraordinary things that so many of them are doing with the education they received here."

CHARLOTTE TRAVIESO (N '64), alumni affairs director

"There's some pent-up emotion that we're seeing come out, which I think is healthy."

JOHN WILLIAMS (A&S '74, A '78), president-elect of the Tulane Alumni Association

"I give the board a lot of credit for having the courage to analyze the issue and realize what a positive impact athletics has on the alumni of Tulane."

LARA GELLER (N '93), Tulane South Florida alumni club president

"The role of intercollegiate athletics at Tulane should be to bring students together to root for the Green Wave. This ageless tradition is vital to building school spirit and loyalty for the university."

STEVE SLATTERY (A&S '87), Tulane Washington, D.C., alumni club president

"The exposure the school receives when it is in a bowl game or the College World Series is immeasurable. Athletics gives students something to rally around."

JON LEWIS (B '89), Tulane Birmingham, Ala., alumni club president

"I think the board made the correct decision."

MICHAEL J. FREEDMAN (TC '03)

"We're a university. As such, I think we need all the diversity that we can get, not only among people, but among activities. Division I-A athletics contributes greatly to that goal, plus it provides many intangible benefits that we can't measure."

VICTOR LAW (E '60, '62, '63), professor of chemical engineering

"I view the board's decision as a temporary measure. The decision to keep I-A is predicated on the athletics department being able to close their budget deficit. Then I would imagine it will be revisited. I think I agree with the decision--it gives the people who are avidly for Division I-A football a chance to put up the money--put up or shut up."

JAMES CAHN (B '92)

"To the extent that the board, President Scott Cowen and athletics director Rick Dickson are committed to fulfilling the conditions laid out in the resolution, I agree with the decision. To the extent that the vote was a break with the status quo of subsidizing athletics at Tulane to the detriment of even greater academic excellence, I agree. However, I am not sanguine about the prospects of meeting the board's stated goals. Intercollegiate athletics is important and deserves the financial support of the institution to the extent it can so afford. It should never come at the cost of quality teaching and learning and all the academic support systems necessary to carry out our mission."

LANCE QUERY, dean of university libraries and academic information

"Although the role of athletics is less important to professional students than it is to undergraduates, personally, I'm glad we're going to stay Division I-A. Athletics events present valuable opportunities for connecting with alumni. Obviously the current deficit has to be addressed, but I'm extremely hopeful that the plan works to achieve the best result for all concerned."

LAWRENCE PONOROFF, dean of Tulane Law School

"If we left Division I-A now, we would have lost our voice at the table. We set a good and positive example of academics and integrity. The world of college sports would miss us."

DICK CULBERTSON, associate professor of health systems management and chair of the University Senate committee on intercollegiate athletics. He also was chair of the steering committee for Tulane's NCAA accreditation in 1999-2002.

"Football's the big sport, and you want to be involved in the big sport. From a sports medicine standpoint, if we didn't have a football team to take care of, we'd lose credibility."

GREG STEWART,
associate professor of orthopaedics and co-director of the Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine

"There's certainly value in being a Division I-A athletics program. The question the board had to grapple with is whether the cost that I-A imposes on the university is worth the value. If there's any reasonable way that we can maintain a Division I-A program then we ought to do that."

GARY ROBERTS, law school professor and deputy dean, who is an expert in sports law.

"I'm hopeful that the athletics department will find a way to control costs. Hopeful, but not optimistic. This is a financial issue in that it is a burden on the university--a burden that a university with the kind of resources that Tulane has can ill-afford. Tulane supporters have to come up with the funds to support this. And the history is, that doesn't happen."

MIKE MISLOVE, professor of mathematics, who has taught at Tulane for 33 years.

"I'm appalled by the decision. It is the wrong decision taken for entirely the wrong reasons. It poses a very serious threat to the continued academic excellence of the institution. This disaster is something that all of us in the university community have to share the blame for because over the years we have failed to communicate with our students who become our alumni what a university is. And therefore we have influential alumni who think of universities solely in terms of their athletics teams. This is wrong. But it is a fact of life. And all of us who had a hand in shaping the alumni share the blame for their appalling state of ignorance. The issue has not been resolved. It will be impossible to achieve this self-sustaining goal within the next three years or five years. The decision that was taken simply postpones the day of reckoning that will be more painful when it has to come."

HARVEY BRICKER, professor of anthropology

Mary Ann Travis is managing editor of Tulanian and can be reached at mtravis@tulane.edu. Arthur Nead is a Tulane publications editor. He can be reached at anead@tulane.edu.

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