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Guest Editorial | Eliminating athletics at UWM at Washington County is short sighted | By Jared Dalberg

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April 13, 2019 – Washington Co., WI – I recently heard from my colleagues within the two year UW campuses that UW-Milwaukee has decided to discontinue intercollegiate athletics at their newly acquired branch campuses, UW-Waukesha (WAK) and UW-Washington County (WSH).  Below is my response to my colleagues in the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference (WCC) in light of this announcement.
I was the athletic director (AD) at UW-Manitowoc for 7 years, but now I teach full-time, as most or the UW 2 year campus ADs are part-time or have split appointments.
This is sad and short-sighted news.
Sorry, I just have to get this off my chest (for those of you who don’t know where I’m coming from, I was the AD at Manitowoc for 7 years).  Here are some of my rebuttals to Dr. Schmid’s/MKE Administration’s announcement.  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but perhaps there’s some value to the rest of the WCC.
 
  1. Rebuttal to “athletics program involves less than 5 percent of students at Waukesha and 10 percent at Washington County.” … “Washington County has had 60 student athletes per year, and Waukesha 68….”
    1. These are significant numbers!  The Student Affairs Office celebrates when there is a 1% increase in admissions and enrollments from the previous year.   If these student-athletes chose to go somewhere else, like RCK, FDL, or SHB to compete in a sport, these campuses will be thrilled.
    2. UW-MKE enrolls about 20,750 students, there are about 405 Panther student-athletes, which is less than 2% of the student body of the main campus.  In this case, percentages are irrelevant.
    3. WAK recruits about 30% of the student-athletes from outside the traditional feeder high schools.  If these students are no longer attracted to attend WAK because there is no longer an opportunity to play competitive intercollegiate athletics, this would further decline enrollments by about 20 students.
    4. The fall 2017 head-count at WAK was 1740 students.  68 student-athletes is 4% of the student body, if 20 students chose to go some where else because intercollegiate athletics is no longer offered, that would be a 1% reduction in enrollments or equivalent to  $95,000 in lost tuition revenue.
    5. About 66% of the student-athletes at WAK & WSH are male and about 25% are a racial minority.  However among the 2 year campuses, 47% of the students are male and 18% are of a racial minority.  Cutting athletics disproportionately impacts males and minorities, especially minority males.  This demographic is under represented in higher education nation-wide, even more evident in the greater Milwaukee area. Eliminating athletics cuts off an access point for males and minorities into our state’s higher education system.
  2. Rebuttal to “the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference will be unfunded and effectively terminated next year.”
    1. Not true.  The WCC created a plan to ensure the continuation of the conference.  Not only did the ADs agree on a conference continuation plan, it created a procedure to potentially allow for the expansion of the conference.
  3. Rebuttal to “declining segregated fee revenues, leaving less funding for non-athletics student life activities and personnel.”
    1. It is true that lower enrollment constrains segregated fee funded programs.  It forces student to either increase seg fees or reduce student programs and services. WAK students pay $198.83 per semester in seg fees.  $48.46 is allocated to athletics, these are among the lowest totals among all the 2 year campuses.
    2. MKE students pay $700.90 in seg fees.  $146.20 is allocated to athletics and $0.86 is allocated to club sports.  The MKE student seg fee for athletics is nearly the total seg fee balance a WAK student pays.  MKE student-athletes account for less than 2% of the student body and they pay 3x the amount for athletics than WAK students.
    3. We pay for what we value.  Under-funding athletics demonstrates the lack of perceived value.  However, our competitors, such as area private universities see the value in athletics in promoting campus culture and recruiting students.  However, they invest in coaches, facilities, and marketing of athletics because it aligns with their values.  
  4. Rebuttal to “our coaches have often struggled in many sports to recruit enough students to form a team.”
    1. If athletics were truly valued by our campuses, and athletics were seen as a valuable tool to recruit and retain students to our campuses, our administration would allocate appropriate resources to support these efforts. This would include reaching out to our coaches to better equip them as recruiters.  Many of our coaches are involved in other sport-related organizations in the community, they have valuable connections to the very students we wish would attend our colleges even boosters who help contribute financially to our athletic programs.
    2. Coaches often make contacts with dozens if not hundreds of potential students in effort to recruit a team.  Our paid regional recruiter recently posted she has made 25 one-to-one student meetings, 37 high school visits, and 5 counselor meetings.  She is doing a commendable job!  I know our basketball coaches and volleyball coaches had similar amount of contacts but their efforts are unrecognized, and often unnoticed.  When I was AD we would have an Athletes’ Day where we’d invite prospective student-athletes and their parents to campus on a Saturday morning, we consistently had 10 – 20 potential students and as many parents and siblings attended.  We had a campus preview night that our Student Services office coordinated last fall in which one one family attended!  My point is, the entire campus is struggling to recruit enough students to fill our classes we should be looking for more opportunities to reach high school students.  Yes, we’ve had to cut sections of classes and let go IAS, but athletics recruits every bit as much as our Student Service personnel.  WAK & WSH student-athletes represent 1:20 and 1:10 students on campus and they just don’t magically appear, these are significant numbers.
 5. Instead of eliminating intercollegiate athletics, let’s look for other solutions.  Perhaps re-evaluate the funding model.  Perhaps change the types of sport offerings that appeal more to the student population.  I believe sun-setting athletics will enter a time of darkness, in that it will further compound enrollment and budgetary woes.
Thank you Debbie and Adam for your years of service and dedication to your students, campus, and conference!!!

Jared K. Dalberg, M.Ed.

Associate Professor of Health, Exercise Science, and Athletics

Human Biology Department

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UW-Green Bay Manitowoc Campus, UW-Green Bay Sheboygan Campus, and UW Colleges Online

Click HERE to read letter to staff.

Click HERE to read press release from UWM.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Jared,
    I have 2 questions I would ask you to answer.
    Based on the fact that The UW system is funded by taxpayers
    Why should I as a taxpayer be paying for kids to play games?
    The purpose of college is to get the kids into the work force.
    Do you think employers take into account when looking at a resume, if a kid played games at school?

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