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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Concert, coach hard to reconcile in UA’s dire times”

    Within the last month, two VIPs have found their way into campus news.

    First, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona announced that Jay-Z will be headlining their Last Smash Platinum Bash, a $1 million stadium concert. The rapper will receive $750,000 for his performance, in addition to a series of eccentric dressing room requests – but hey, who doesn’t need matching end tables to feel at home?

    Then, on April 6, despite reports that he planned to turn down the job, Xavier’s Sean Miller accepted the post as head coach of the Arizona men’s basketball team. He signed a reported 5-year, $18 million contract, and received a $1 million signing bonus.

    In both cases, the funds for these seeming extravagances come from sources other than the university’s budget, and ASUA and Arizona Athletics have argued that the concert and the new coach, respectively, will reap benefits to outweigh the up-front costs.

    The Jay-Z concert, according to ASUA, will entirely pay for itself through ticket sales and merchandising. The organization plans to put any net profits into a scholarship fund.

    Many men’s basketball fans, including the Daily Wildcat’s own Bryan Roy, have argued that Miller’s contract will more than pay for itself. Roy points out that, “”For all (intents and) purposes, the UA athletics department is a private corporation just like any other professional sports franchise.”” None of the money for Miller’s contract will come from state or federal funds. And men’s basketball is a huge revenue and enrollment draw for the UA; without a coach good enough – read, expensive enough – to carry on the illustrious hoops tradition, the university would stand to lose both money and what Roy refers to as “”the intangibles:”” prestige, national attention and tradition.

    The arguments for both the concert and the hiring of Sean Miller, in terms of financial sense, are compelling. Barring some unexpected development, both will actually draw in revenue and garner praise for the UA.

    Still, both are hard to reconcile in these particularly dire straits, especially for students and their parents who aren’t interested in the UA for its basketball or its budding tradition of big-name spring concerts. For those who looked or are looking to the UA for its strong academic reputation – or even those interested in the Playboy-ranked party school – so much very visible money spent on sports and entertainment make the university feel more corporate than academic.

    Is that what we want to be? When average-Joe Wildcat Mom or Pop thinks about the UA, do we want them to think about Jay-Z and Sean Miller? Or about the incredibly talented students and faculty who manned a groundbreaking mission to Mars that was even more successful than they could have imagined?

    The UA is great at being a sports-industrial complex, and cultivating its ability to attract massive entertainment events. Anyone who attends the school knows that, and most appreciate it. But first and foremost, we are not a corporation, nor a venue. We are a major, renowned research university with dozens of lesser-known gems, from a phenomenal dance school to an outstanding and innovative creative writing program.

    As state funding shrinks, and student organizations like the Arizona Students Association fight tirelessly to save higher education in Arizona from being gutted, the UA must decide what it is, or at least what it wants to be perceived as.

    How are non-university affiliated, tax-paying Arizonans, let alone the legislature, to take our cries for help seriously if all they hear about from the UA community is basketball coaches and stadium concerts?

    How is anyone to believe our school needs saving if the image we project is one of a well-oiled corporate machine, not an institution of higher learning?

    Desperate times call for, not desperate measures, but a strong sense of identity and a united front. Before we beg for mercy from the state as it hacks away at our funds, we’ve got to decide who we want to be to the public. A basketball team? An entertainment center? Or, plain and simple, a great school?

    Heather Price-Wright is a creative writing and Latin American studies sophomore. She can be reached at

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