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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sports make the UA work

    Believe it or not, the original colors of the UA were sage green and silver. But over 100 years ago, a gonga of a deal on blue jerseys with red trim was presented to the university and it accepted.

    And just like that, athletics changed the face of the school forever – or at least for the past century – signifying the beginning of a lifelong dependency on sports for all large universities alike.

    The conglomeration of sports at a large university like the UA is the force that drives the school as a whole. Arguments have been made that college-level athletes are pampered or are given a scholastic edge even though they miss classes for travel, while coaches rake in too much money.

    The simple fact is, however, that major universities like Arizona would struggle to function without sports.

    For starters, academic programs bring in millions upon millions of dollars to the school – not only from boosters but also from former athletes (Richard Jefferson donated $3.5 million dollars to the school last August, making it the largest sum ever donated by a current professional athlete to his former school). Next and more obvious are the athletics events that are held on campus. An Arizona Daily Wildcat study conducted by former sports reporter Michael Schwartz last spring found that the UA football and men’s basketball programs brought in $30,625,682 from 2003-07. After expenses, the two programs brought in a collective profit of $17,914,730.

    That sum alone justifies the yearly base salary of men’s basketball head coach Lute Olson ($714,567) and football head coach Mike Stoops ($663,717), two of the highest paid employees at the school.

    You can look at what sports do to a campus outside of money, too. National recognition, for example, is ignited largely by athletics. Arizona is known for its hall-of-fame men’s basketball coach and his team’s tradition of excellence as a national powerhouse program; both the UA men’s and women’s swimming teams recently captured the national titles; herald Oklahoma football head coach Bob Stoops’ brother leads the UA team; and the Wildcat softball team arguably has the greatest tradition in the game, along with UCLA.

    People notice these things and latch onto them. Very few can tell you about Arizona’s top-of-the-line tree ring research (which happens to be housed in the UA football stadium) and its advances in telescopes. If it weren’t for the school leading the charge on the Phoenix Mars Mission, most national recognition not sports-related would be completely swept under the rug.

    We haven’t even begun to touch the surface of the importance of sports on campus – the stuff that students really care about. Pre-gaming, tailgating and post-game parties would be nonexistent – one less excuse for inebriation. And where else can you stand with 9,999 other students who are wearing what you’re wearing – more or less – jumping on your feet and jingling your keys in unison? Hello, opening kickoff in the Zona Zoo section.

    The newest college football and basketball video games wouldn’t take up your time, there would be no Ooh Ahh Man (you’ll learn about him soon) and you’d miss out on discussions of the nation’s best and worst mascots (what’s up with the Stanford tree?).

    And that whole rivalry thing with ASU? That would most likely turn into a battle of who has the hottest students.

    Well, some things will never change.

    – Lance Madden is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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