OUS dropping sports for 1 year

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 14, 2006

Ohio University Southern’s five college-sponsored sports are facing yearlong off-seasons in which the students will decide the fates of the programs.

Starting with the fall quarter, OUS has decided it will not offer the programs for a year while university-formed committees try to determine if this is the best way to serve the student body of more than 2,000 enrollees. Less than 50 students participated in the men’s basketball, women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, tennis and golf teams last year.

“We plan to take a hiatus this next year, study it for a year and base our decision on what the students tell us,” said Dan Evans, southern campus dean. “Do they want us to continue these club sports? If this is what the students are interested in, we will come back with a renewed commitment to make the programs better and make them stronger.”

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OUS’ sports are considered “club sports” rather than “intercollegiate” programs. The NCAA does not sanction the programs and OUS cannot offer athletic scholarships.

A number of factors contributed to the decision to put the programs on hold, Evans said, including the lack of an on-campus gymnasium, inability to maintain consistent team support that would allow entry into the OU regional campus league and the financial costs of running programs that are being utilized by such a small percentage of the students.

OUS basketball teams have to play in rented gymnasiums such including Dawson-Bryant and Ironton. The scheduling issues and lack of on-campus options are part of the problem, Evans said.

Overall, the university spends between $75,000 and $100,000 a year for facility rentals, equipment, coaches’ salaries, travel and other expenses related to the sports teams.

“This will give us a chance to evaluate it and do what is in the best interest of all the students. We want to make sure we are doing what students are most interested in,” Evans said, adding that this direction was partially determined by student surveys and the university’s most recent strategic plan. “It is all about engaging the maximum number of students.”

The university has established a committee of faculty and staff, with plans to add students, that will make recommendations on pursuing sports and other recreation opportunities that could include activities such as bowling, intramural sports or some the sports that were offered in recent years. Evans anticipates a recommendation by Spring 2007.

For 24-year-old Proctorville sophomore Bryan Johnson, new recreational opportunities would be acceptable since sports programs don’t interest him.

“(The sports) wouldn’t be something I would care about,” the history major said. “The university could probably spend the money in better ways.”

Chad Ratcliff, a 32-year-old business economics major from Proctorville, agreed that the university should refocus its efforts.

“I am being realistic with it. I think, personally, that is way too much money to put into sports activities here. If that is the interest, students can go to Athens,” he said. “Most of the students here are focused on their degrees and on business. I would say (a large percentage) are non-traditional students.”

If the university is looking to re-invest, Ratcliff offered a variety of options including new dining facilities, improvements in the science department and more teachers.

“These funds need to go into more educational things,” Ratcliff said. “I think (the sports programs) are a waste of time.”

Anthony Tackett is not so sure that the sports programs should be dropped altogether.

The 19-year-old Electronic Media major from Ashland, Ky., said he thinks that it might be something to consider if the university took a more pro-active approach.

“It they put enough money into it, and attracts enough attention, the programs will draw students,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like it is pushed enough … People just don’t know about them. If the university advertised better and was more conscientious on how they put it out there, they would have more than 40 people.”