Columbia athletics in bad shape

By Editorial Board

Columbia’s current athletics program is underfunded and unsupported by the college. Rather than having school-supported teams, the college relies on a number of intramural club sports teams to raise most of their funds through efforts such as bake sales, which can only yield very limited results. The teams are too busy with other obligations, such as finding and securing practice spaces, to raise substantial financial support. The college budget for all of Columbia’s club teams combined is an annual $8,000, compared with many neighboring colleges whose annual athletic budgets are in the millions. Many students aren’t even aware we have sports teams.

There is no reason why Columbia shouldn’t have a more prominent athletic program. It is unfair to assume Columbia students, because they are mostly artists, can’t enjoy playing or watching sports, or at least supporting their teams during game time. The college’s student body is far more diverse than it is given credit for.

Sporting events can foster a sense of community and school spirit that can be hard to come by on a campus as widespread and disconnected as ours, and which the Department of Student Affairs has been looking to improve. Teams can provide students and alumni with something to rally around, and selling team apparel might be a good source of revenue for the college.

However, a number of factors make it difficult to implement a sports program at Columbia on a scale comparable to, say, Northwestern University. It is unrealistic to expect Columbia administrators to divert large sums of budget money from academic departments to support sports programs. The college could, however, conduct a study to find out how many students want a larger athletic program. If the demand was high enough, administrators would then have more of an incentive to find a way to finance a larger athletic budget.

The lack of available practice space is another issue our teams struggle with. There are no easily accessible fields or arenas near Columbia’s campus. The South Loop doesn’t lend itself to the construction of a new arena nearby.

The college should, at the very least, build a gymnasium. Unlike a full stadium, a gym could be built into a nearby building and give all students a place to stay in shape. It would also provide a reliable practice space for teams that currently have to practice in an elementary school’s gymnasium. A Columbia gym would benefit the college’s struggling sports teams and potentially the entire student body, creating a win-win situation.