Alumni and Friends of San Diego State:
On Sunday, December 28, the Union-Tribune published an extended commentary by its sports writer, Mark Zeigler, arguing that, “It’s time to drop football at San Diego State.” Let me begin by saying that Mr. Zeigler is certainly entitled to his opinion as is, of course, the U-T entitled to publish it. I wondered, however, if the U-T were interested in providing equal space for a response by someone whose opinion actually has a bearing on the continuation of football at SDSU. They were not. Hence the following. Please share it with friends and others whom you believe might be interested.
I came to San Diego State to participate in the continued building of a great university, not to dismantle one. Intercollegiate athletics is part of the excellence of SDSU. So, too, is our outstanding record of research (the number one small research university in the country -- with over $130 million in grants and contracts last year), and our engagement with the San Diego community (the Sweetwater Compact for Success, the City Heights Education Collaborative, our public health initiatives, our service to area business and industry through programs such as Hospitality and Tourism, or Construction Engineering Management, or Regulatory Affairs). Not to mention the popularity of our campus (number two in undergraduate applications nationwide), our improved SAT’s, GPA’s, graduation rates, etc.
Since the U-T has seen fit to disseminate Mr. Zeigler’s opinion and thereby arm every university that is recruiting against San Diego State, I need to say clearly (again) that Div I-A football will be part of San Diego State as long as I serve as its president (which will be for another two and a half years or until our faculty, our Chancellor, or our Board of Trustees sees fit to send me on my way). Moreover, it is highly unlikely that my successor, whomever he or she may be, will be of a different opinion. For better or worse, intercollegiate athletics is an important way in which the caring of SDSU faculty and staff and the hard work of our students can be made visible. I wish we lived in a world where more people understood and cared as much about the excellence of our library, or of our Biology department, or of the good work of colleagues in Student Affairs. We do not. That is why San Diego State needs to build an intercollegiate athletics program that reflects the overall excellence of our university and of the men and women who make it up.
While, as I said, Mr. Zeigler is entitled to his opinion he is not entitled to make misstatements. Let me cite a few:
- SDSU "…has watched attendance and donor contributions steadily decline."
In point of fact, donor contributions to the university have steadily risen, from approximately $18 million in 1996 to $71 million last year. In fact, SDSU has raised over twice as much money in the past 12 years as it did in the prior 100. (We recently took a look at the relationship between those who contributed to athletics from 2001- 2007 and their support for non-athletic programs at SDSU. We found that the 1,489 who had contributed $20.5 million to athletics contributed an additional $56.8 million to SDSU in general.)
- "… the cash-strapped city refuses to continue losing hundreds of thousands of dollars hosting Aztec games." San Diego State has met every financial obligation spelled out in our lease with the city. As we negotiate a new lease, SDSU seeks an agreement that will be mutually beneficial to both parties.
- "On Dec. 3, [Weber] unilaterally imposed [an additional athletic fee.]"
Not so. After a campus wide, “alternative consultation” in which a majority of the students expressing an opinion endorsed the fee, [61% in favor, 39% opposed] the fee was then unanimously recommended by the thirteen member Campus Fee Advisory Committee (including a majority of students who are appointed by Associated Students and two faculty appointed by the University Senate).
- "This is your football team, as a taxpayer… You should have a say whether to keep tossing it a life preserver."
That is true, but the implication is erroneous. In 1997, in response to the additional cost of the CalNOW gender equity agreement, I requested from our University Senate, and they approved, an additional $2 million to cover those (in my view proper) costs. In return, I agreed that, “no additional general fund allocation other than usual salary increases would be given to athletics.” We have honored that agreement.
- "A $2.455 million profit. Fantasy."
The revenue generated from the conference and the NCAA is directly related to our football program, and marketing and fundraising monies have a direct correlation as well. If we assign to football its proportionate share of university allocated funds, and its reasonable share of generated revenues, such as conference revenues and corporate sponsorship revenues, football had $2.455 million funds in excess of expenditures in Fiscal Year 2005/06, and similar results for other years.
Ideas, even misstated, poorly researched ones, have consequences; so, I will say it once again, Div. I-A football will continue at San Diego State. Just as we do with the rest of our university, we will strive to make it better. I believe we have made a major step in that direction with the hiring of head coach Brady Hoke and what is already shaping up to be a first rate coaching staff. While Mr. Zeigler's opinions will be shared with prospective recruits across the southwest, we will not subscribe to his negativism. There are many who, like Mr. Zeigler, want our city, our university and our football program to settle for second best. My colleagues and I are not interested in that path.
Stephen L. Weber