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Eliminating BSU football a logical choice

When I taught at Bemidji State University not too many years ago, support for higher education came two-thirds from the state and federal government, while one-third was paid by the student. That ratio is now reversed. Students work multiple jobs while going to school, do less well in their classes because of it, and still graduate with crushing debt.

President Richard Hanson came to BSU as a change agent. His job was to address a broad range of pressing fiscal issues. The result he called “Recalibration” (‘downsizing’ in English). First to be cut was the Theatre program, a popular major, along with Visual Arts (it once had 200 majors), as well as deep cuts in Music, English, History and so on — a wide swath through the liberal arts.

Not “recalibrated” at BSU were any sports programs. Just the opposite, in fact. The fateful decision to move hockey to Division I has become to BSU as the Sanford Center is to the city of Bemidji: a constant drain of resources, and a dark cloud always close on the horizon.

President Hanson recently fired the BSU athletic director for not bringing in enough “outside money” (with D-I hockey at a small college like BSU there will never be enough). But even our politicians agree lately that a ‘balanced’ approach — additional revenue along with budget cuts — is the way to solve fiscal problems. And perhaps a quick fix lies right under Dick Hanson’s formidable shoes. Why not “recalibrate” football?

It is clear that BSU has made its sports bed with hockey. Eliminating football, then, is a logical choice. In terms of money, it is the next largest line item below hockey, plus would greatly improve gender equity in sports at BSU. And while football remains our most popular national spectator sport, it is the least useful to students after college: very little of real life involves short bursts of speed and knocking people down.

Nationally, the new focus on life-altering football injuries — concussions in particular — make it increasingly a sport with no upside. Certainly football in America is not going away any time soon, but for many reasons, maybe it should at BSU.

Will Weaver