University Officials Banking on Winner

Arthur Dowell, Web Master

Once hidden to the human eye by rows of trees with only a single dirt path leading the way, Mangelsdorf field looks bright and open, a modern venue for contemporary college sports. The new home to Cougar football – and the entire football enterprise –  cost the school $11,702,195.

Nearly two years after approval, the Cougars played football for the first time in the institution’s 88 year history. With a new baseball field, residence hall, and two renovated fields to go with the team, the question arises: How will the university foot the bill

One way is to tap $5,200 of each student’s annual tuition earmarked for “student services,” an umbrella term that includes the Writing Center, Student Success Center, CAPS center, student activities and athletics. That amounts to $20,800 after the typical four years of college. Officials declined to comment on the exact dollar amount dedicated to athletics.

However, President Michael MacDowell is certain the popularity of the all-American sport will enable it to pay for itself. “It’s like soccer in the UK,” said MacDowell. “Football has a place here and I’m certain people will go out and watch the young men play.”

The first home game in the school’s history amassed 2,000 spectators, and the university, once dismissively referred to as a “ghost town” on weekends, had an entire parking lot full of tailgaters of all ages ready to see the new chapter in MU athletics take hold.

Senior Business Administration major Dan Welsh said he would disagree with spending much of his tuition on football in an era of steeply rising tuition rates

“I have not gone to enough sporting events at school to even amass  $1000. I know that as a fulltime student, some of my money does go towards the different services, but I don’t believe I have been involved with any of them enough to amass to the $20,800 it takes from me to keep them going.”

Rising enrollment may offset the cost.  Admissions skyrocketed 28% from 368 full-time students in the 2011-2012 school year to 511 in 2012-2013. Officials say they did not expect the door-busting student numbers this year, and MacDowell said the goal for next year is a 10 percent decrease in enrollment to roughly 460 new students – still a significant increase in number.

MacDowell’s goal is to maintain the current level of tuition, particularly in light of the nation’s financial squeeze.  “I visualize growth in the future for this institution,” says MacDowell. “The price of tuition will not go up as long as we keep getting the interest from high school students who have potential to one day end up here.”

One of MacDowell’s jobs while he is in office is to promote the school, a task he performs with gusto. On top of a display case in his office – containing model pieces resembling campus buildings – are pamphlets for activities and services – everything on campus that may pique the interest of potential students. He takes pride in recruiting future students and enjoys showing them the benefits of the school. Football provides yet another way of doing that.

“Football is such a cultural game here,” says MacDowell, “It’s like soccer to the U.K. and cricket in India. It sells itself.”

And that’s important because the creation of a football team includes capital, operating, and indirect costs.

Capital costs include construction of the new field house, baseball field, the work needed on both Manglesdorf and McGeehan fields, and the new Michael and Tina MacDowell residence hall.

Operating costs are those that fund equipment, uniforms, team travel, and salaries.

Indirect costs are items that are not directly the result of a football program, but perhaps expenditures that may be an incidental result of it. Included in these costs is faculty and staff salaries sufficient to maintain the student-to-faculty ratio of approximately 16.5 to 1 and student-to-staff numbers around 7 to 1.

According to a report by Felix Salmon of reuters.com, nationally, the ratios are similar to what they were in 1980, but more money is now required to pay for salaries and wages that are higher today than they were 1980 due to inflation.

“It’s important for us to keep these numbers stable,” Says MacDowell, “We take great pride in offering an excellent education to the students and keeping the staff and faculty ratios in the ballpark helps.”

Officials say they are on the way to cutting the red ink.  A popular fundraiser involves allows people to have their names imprinted on bricks for a $1000 donation.

Officials say they have no doubt that football will cause tuition to escalate, nor will it saddle the school with unmanageable debt. With people willing to watch football and donate towards the cause, officials feel they are in a good place with the team taking off.

After all, like soccer in the U.K., football, officials say, pays in America.

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