If They Don’t Win, It’s Our Shame
I have never been, nor will I ever be, an athlete. I prefer to watch it all from a safe distance by
occasionally attending basketball games, cheering on the Crew Team at the Genesee
River, or elbowing my way into a seat at Ritter Arena. Yet even at this arm’s length
vantage point, I can easily see that sports are under-supported at RIT.
If I were one of the Tigers playing on the field day-in and day-out, I’d feel mightily
shafted. Games are poorly attended by spectators and, remarkably enough, by the
players themselves. There’s a noticeable number of athletes who can’t always attend
their own matches, let alone their own practices, due to conflicting class times. Let
me repeat for clarity: Athletes at RIT are often forced to choose between doing well in
classes or doing well on the field. I believe this to be a worrying and unnecessary cycle,
an exercise in circular and self-perpetuating thought.
Athletes at RIT are considered hobbyists. They can’t be professionals, after
all, because our school has a notoriously mediocre athletics program. These
‘hobbyist’ athletes, then, are considered to be playing sports as a mere
recreation, an amusing if nonfunctional departure from their studies. As
such, they are not afforded much help in arranging their class schedules
to accommodate their rigid practice schedules, which causes them to miss
valuable practices. So, while the teams do improve throughout the season,
they don’t improve nearly as much as they ought to, and thus end up playing
potentially disappointing and mediocre seasons.
But what if those athletes were given a little help via early course registration,
as Student Government has suggested in one of its latest proposals?
I bet that two things would happen: The first is that athletics at RIT would take a
serious turn for the better. Athletes who can attend practice without worrying about
deferring their graduation or routinely missing classes due to schedule conflicts will
self-evidently perform better come game time. The second is that the general student
body would be excessively and perhaps irrationally pissed off.
The argument against offering athletes early registration
involves perceived inequality amongst
students. Athletes, they say, should not be given
preferential scheduling because it would signal
that RIT was beginning to value athletics over
academics. I find this argument confusing, because
as I look around this Institute, it is clear
that academics are the leading lady. Athletics,
meanwhile, seem so far off center-stage that it
can’t even place its big toe in the spotlight’s luminance,
let alone dominate it. There is certainly
room to grow the athletics program without
shrinking our educational merit. One could even
argue that, should it come at a price of reduced
educational process, a slight increase in athletics
would still be worthwhile for this campus. Man
needs more than mere brainpower to be happy
I think that RIT has a lot to gain by supporting
its athletes. First, it would help grow RIT’s national
prestige. We could spend the next hundred
years arguing about garnering fame through an
excellent basketball team, and whether or not
that’s morally or intellectually desirable, but the
results of that conversation would be meaningless.
Duke, a damn fine school in its own right,
has no doubt been made more successful as a
result of its NCAA bids over the years.
There’s a more personal reason that I’d like to
see RIT’s athletes succeed both on and off the
field, though, and that has to do with campus
culture. Four years ago, I arrived at a school that
was more or less exactly what I expected it to be:
heavy on the academics and light on life. I have
six more months ‘til graduation. If I could do it
all over again, I probably wouldn’t come here.
My education has been stellar, certainly, but my
overall college experience has been on
life support for some time now.
I wish I could have heard people
cheering on the Quarter Mile during
Homecoming, and it would have been
nice to feel like there was a community
here that wasn’t based on classes
and whining about the stormy weather.
I wanted to feel and see and taste
Tiger Pride. I am not delusional, in
that I do not believe that supporting
our athletes via early registration would instantly
usher in an age of Division I Prosperity
at RIT. I do, however, believe that it’s a reasonable
step towards improving the quality of life
on this campus.