Dealing with the reality of Redhawk athletics
What's Going Downey
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 22:02
Miami University athletics is in a difficult, albeit common place. The reality is that every sport at Miami loses money. Football, basketball and even hockey are in the red, not to mention the smaller sports like tennis, volleyball and golf. The Miami athletic budget relies heavily on student funds, much like other Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools. Only a very select few schools make money on athletics. That is just the way Division I athletics work. It’s not ideal, but it is the reality.
The one thing that is immeasurable is the publicity that comes with being a Division I athletic program. I don’t have the exact numbers, but if I were a gambling man (which I am), I’d bet a decent sum of money that applications tend to increase at schools when a major athletic team wins a championship or does unusually well.
Incoming college students want to go to a school with great academics, which Miami has. And the school rightfully prides itself on that. But when people hear “RedHawks” they think of Miami University, not the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State. The free publicity that schools get from being in Division I can’t be overlooked.
One of the biggest problems Miami has is that its attendance is just awful. Football games never sell out, Millett is often barren and even Goggin struggles at times. It is a partially a testament to the fact that there are other things to do on this campus, some legal some not, but it is disheartening nonetheless. The easiest way to get people to come games is simple: WIN!
Winning cures all most ills. Just ask Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis, Tiger Woods and even Ben Roethlisberger. Fans forgive and forget as long winning is occurring. If Miami can put a winning product out on the field on a regular basis, fans will start showing up. Miami needs to make sporting events THE thing to do in Oxford. It is an incredibly hard task, especially for a MAC school, but small schools can win big.
Just look at what Chris Petersen has done at Boise State. Or what Brad Stevens has done at Butler. It doesn’t mean building a big time winner out of a mid-major is easy. But it is possible.
Smaller schools can’t rely on being able to recruit elite talent. They have to build from within and it starts with the coaching staff and their vision. Brad Stevens’ and his “Butler Way” have done wonders for a school with a mere 4,000 undergrads. The same type of success can be done at Miami. In fact, it is being done.
Look at what Enrico Blasi and his “Brotherhood” mentality have done for the hockey program. When he took over, Blasi was the youngest coach in Division I hockey and Miami hockey had never won an NCAA tournament game. They’ve now made the post-season six straight times and are all but assured of making it seven. The program is on the verge of winning yet another CCHA regular season title. It is one of the elite hockey programs in the county. It is not a matter of if, but when they’ll win an NCAA title.
Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Cooper seems like the dynamic leader that can do this. The basketball program is a long-term rebuilding project, so it will take time for Cooper to get his guys in and build something that can last. Whether or not Cooper sticks around for many years after that is another question for another column. Finding a coach willing to stay at Miami, or any small school for that matter is incredibly hard. But this columnist believes that Cooper can build something here to potentially rival the peak Charlie Coles years.
Unfortunately, football Head Coach Don Treadwell is running out of time to foster a Brotherhood-esque mentality in his team. The world of college football doesn’t have much patience, especially for back to back 4-8 seasons following a 10-4 season and a bowl victory. Treadwell is making $400,000 per year. He is the highest paid employee of Miami University. If the team doesn’t reach bowl eligibility, Treadwell’s seat is going to be quite hot. If they go 4-8 again, I’ll be flabbergasted if he’s not gone. Any potential Treadwell buyout would cost a lot of money that the school doesn’t really have, but the nice bonus from Northern Illinois playing in a BCS bowl game would likely be enough to buy out his contract.
Miami athletics lacks money, but new Athletic Director David Sayler is doing his best to find ways to raise money. He’s already secured funds for a new weight room in Goggin Ice Center. There is no doubt in my mind that by the time I graduate, Miami will have announced plans for an indoor practice facility that it desperately needs.
Miami will likely never be to compete with Ohio State on the gridiron on a regular basis. But this columnist hopes there is never a day when Miami is competing in the Ohio Valley Conference.