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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

USU athletics bleeding red -- and that should make you blue

By Joey Hislop

October 2, 2006 | If they build it, will you come?

In the movie Field of Dreams, Iowa corn farmer Ray Kinsella heeds the advice of a voice from the sky and mows down a sizeable chunk of his family's only source of income to build a baseball field, doing so with only the promise, "If you build it, they will come."

Though they're not his exact words, that's pretty much what USU Athletic Director Randy Spetman told the Board of Trustees last January concerning the proposed -- and partially finished -- project to upgrade Romney Stadium. Yet to be done is Phase 2 of the project, otherwise known as the $10.5 million renovation to the stadium's north end zone.

While raising corn is hardly a second option for the above-mentioned land, Spetman must feel much like Kinsella when he thinks about the future of USU's football program and the upcoming renovations to the north end zone. The end zone renovation follows an already completed revamping of the south entrance of the stadium and is slated to begin at the completion this year's football season. While most of the money has been generated thanks to $6 million from what is known as the "student bond," as well as budget appropriations and generous donations, the project still lacks about $1.5 million and, according to Spetman, will have to be built in phases until all the money is raised.

To make this situation even more desperate, the football program is in danger of being put on probation by the Western Athletic Conference for low average attendance totals and will lose its eligibility for WAC bowl games if the low attendance averages continue over the next couple years. Spetman argues, along with many others, that these improvements to the stadium will help in the recruiting of top athletes and will thereby lead to future success, which in turn helps to build up the strength of the football program and other programs.

However, this fall has been a particularly difficult one in terms of making a case for the need for these renovations. For starters, the university has been cutting funding from academic programs left and right due to a general lack of funds. In terms of priority, many feel that academic programs should take precedence over athletics programs, especially when the most profitable athletic program -- basketball -- only breaks even. To make things even worse, the football program, which as mentioned is in danger of being put on probation for lack of attendance, has yet to win a game this year and will most likely be unable to sign top recruits as a result of its lack of success regardless of attendance figures.

While this situation has yet to cause a severe amount of uproar on campus or in the community, it is one that should be taken seriously by citizens, students, sports fans and non-sports fans alike. The sheer financial figures are somewhat alarming. USU athletics paid $500,000 just become part of the WAC and has to pay $400,000 every year to stay in it. So far, the lack of attendance has put the program in the red nearly $300,000 to date.

Also, to help offset a $150,000 increase in the cost of funding student-athlete scholarships due to the passing of HB 331, USU has increased the amount of fees every student must pay by $10. The irony here is that most students don't go to the athletics events they're being charged extra for. Again, if attendance figures continue to drop, recruits won't want to come here anyway, and as Spetman told the Board of Trustees, this could result in the football program folding.

So, what's to be done? The football program will either sink or swim. Oh, and by the way; before anyone starts chanting "Fire the coach!! Fire the coach!!" keep in mind that firing the current football coach would mean buying-out the remainder of his five-year contract which would also mean that USU would be paying for three head football coaches -- the new guy they would hire, the last guy they fired (whom they're continuing to pay since they bought him out a couple years ago), as well as the current coach who, as you can see, is not about to be fired.

Now, most people probably go one of three ways on this issue. There are those who say screw athletics. They would rather see the money go to the much more important academic programs which have the potential to build good and able college graduates who will go out into the real world and contribute to their community. There's also those who enjoy watching athletics and would hate to see their school have to cut its football program. Unfortunately for many students, attending games is not possible due to schedule conflicts and homework load. Valley residents often face a similar predicament when it comes to getting off work to attend a game. Many find it just as enjoyable to listen to a game on the radio as it would be to attend, pointing to weather as a main reason to stay home. That decision is made even easier when games are televised. There's also a third party -- those who don't care. They're the ones who don't go to games.

If you do go to games and count yourself among the die-hard Aggie fans and don't want to see your team pack-up and go back home, keep on doing what you're doing. The Aggies need your support. While you're at it, feel free to make a generous donation to your favorite team's end-zone fund. They need it. The fact of the matter is that the football program for the last couple years has been on something of a downward spiral. There's no certainty to any possible remedies for the problem, nor is there any end in sight. It's becoming a no-win situation for Spetman and others involved, especially when the team records no wins.

Unfortunately, in the business of college sports it's no longer about the lessons you learn along the way, unless the lesson you learn is that you need money to compete. Utah State doesn't have that money. No mun -- no fun. That's the harsh reality here. When it comes to success in college athletics, the bottom line is the bottom line and though Utah State's colors are blue and white, the only thing they're seeing is red.

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