Will Miami's investment translate to interest?
Miami University did not feel like a MAC school this past weekend. The groundbreaking of the new indoor multipurpose athletic facility and the John Harbaugh Cradle of Coaches induction ceremony gave the grounds of Yager Stadium a new energy.
It is clear that athletic director David Sayler and President David Hodge are onboard with spending large sums of money to improve the future of Miami Athletics. Big plays are being made, from linking up with a Super Bowl winning coach, to improvements to Goggin Ice Center, McKie Field and the creation of the indoor training facility.
My question is: will the interest of the student body follow this monetary movement?
Locked in the dungeon of the MAC standings for much of the past decade, the major general interest sports in Oxford have become forgotten on campus. The rise of hockey is an exception to this trend, but after a disappointing, 19 loss 2013-14 campaign, even the hockey contingent in Oxford is concerned. Will winning games, claiming MAC championships and achieving postseason success spur student interest?
The answer is unclear. Listening to class of 1984 alumni John Harbaugh speak this past weekend gives new energy to the movement. One of the best and most genuine public speakers was on display. Harbaugh is an example of a high-class individual who is a winner at the highest level of his sport. It was an opportunity Sayler could not pass up. It is only the beginning for the "new" Miami football program, and a coach with the charisma and track record of Chuck Martin shows great promise for the win column.
Looking to fellow MAC football programs, however, the bright future turns bleak. Take Northern Illinois for example. Yes, they made a BCS bowl. Yes, they produced a Heisman candidate in Jordan Lynch, and dominated conference competition for three seasons. What is the end result? The result is Jordan Lynch is gone and the Huskies are still in the MAC. This is college football, where powerhouse teams and more importantly powerhouse conferences will reap the financial rewards for eternity. No MAC football team will ever hold a long-term display of dominance. Coaches, athletic directors and players move on to bigger paydays. It is the nature of the game.
My attention turns to a sport like basketball. In the MAC, a basketball program can be sustained financially. Small conference, dominant teams can turn a profit with the opportunity of continued March Madness success. The small program's first amendment right is the billion-dollar March Madness tournament, unlike anything in college football. Why is the basketball team not getting the attention the football team is? For those of you watching, men's basketball coach John Cooper and the 2013-14 RedHawks made great strides from just one season ago. Notice the NCAA tournament success of MAC basketball programs. In college hoops, MAC schools can hang with the big dogs. And that means a better chance of financial success.
Look long term and think realistically. Before the dollars run out.
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