Binghamton athletics must improve to justify fee

Last year, you, your roommate and every other student on campus paid around $590 (if they were full-time students) toward an “Intercollegiate Athletic Fee.” It was stated on the bill, but, if you’re anything like me, you quickly skimmed it, ignored any further inspection, paid the bill, cried a little and then moved on with your life.

So where did our money go?

According to Binghamton University’s mandatory fees explanation chart, the fee, which is charged solely to undergraduate students, “supports Binghamton University’s Division I intercollegiate athletics program and campus athletics facilities.” This includes expenses such as traveling to away games, paying for new uniforms and equipment and preparing facilities for use.

Remember when the men’s basketball team went to Cancún last Thanksgiving while you were at home arguing with your siblings about who was going to wash the dishes after your turkey dinner? No? Well, it’s quite possible that a portion of the fees you paid went toward its travel expenses and resort stay anyway.

For the 2016-17 season, USA Today compiled data on the finances of every team in the NCAA. At many of the schools that dominate men’s basketball and football — where the bulk of NCAA revenue comes from — students do not pay any fees to support athletic programs. These schools include Texas A&M, Michigan and Georgia. Students at the University of Florida are still mandated to provide funding to their teams, but only contributed about $1.90 per credit hour over the 2018-19 school year toward an athletics fee.

BU isn’t alone in forcing students to pay considerable fees, not by a long shot, but almost $600 a year is a lot of money to fork over to programs such as men’s basketball, which went 11-20 overall last season, and only 2-14 in the America East Conference (which are the games that count toward qualifying for the postseason).

So is it worth it?

At a school like Binghamton, which averaged only 2,501 people in attendance at 2017 men’s basketball home games in the Events Center, which can hold up to 5,142 people, I don’t think it is. I can also, sadly, assume that of those average 2,501 people, even fewer of them were students, which makes the problem even worse.

It’s nice that the University allows students to attend athletic events for free (just bring your BU ID!), but how many of us can actually say we’ve taken up this offer? And if non-athlete students aren’t going to games, then what benefits do paying for Division I teams offer us? Certainly not good press (regarding the 2009 men’s basketball scandal), and statistically overall, not a ton of wins this season, either.

Just because these are of some of Binghamton’s failures, though, doesn’t mean the fee doesn’t benefit the athletes. In the past two years, we’ve had a handful of baseball and basketball players go on to professional careers. Our sports programs also allow athletes an opportunity to earn a scholarship while playing a sport they love. It’s not all bad, but it’s not quite fair that other students’ money is, partially, financing the endeavor.

Five hundred and ninety dollars is the same amount of money my dad gave me to buy food this semester. It’s the same amount of money as, maybe, six textbooks (depending on your major). It’s also the same amount of money as, maybe, per chance, your own trip to Cancún (if you’re thrifty, which most of us are).

In conclusion, I don’t want to say that $590 is too much to spend on student-athletes, because I know they work hard and, hopefully, benefit from this contribution. But guess what? The rest of us would benefit from an extra $590 in our bank accounts, too.

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