Apr 152012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Serious opposition to the on-campus stadium proposal has arrived.

Approximately 300 people attended Friday night’s Save Our Stadium Hughes and Save Our Stadium CSU meeting at the Lory Student Center, eager to hear alumnus and renowned sports expert David Ridpath debunk the five reasons university officials have given to go forward with the proposal.

By raising substantiated points and attracting an above-average crowd, the event marked a departure from previous anti-stadium gatherings. It wasn’t the same community members giving the same emotional arguments on Friday.

“Yes, it (has) taken longer than I would have liked to,” said Bob Vangermeersch, SOS Hughes founder. “ … Our organization is a whole lot better than it was two months ago.”

The community organizer has been taking on supporters of the proposal who have mainly argued that it will push CSU athletics –– especially its football team –– into the top-20 programs in the nation. Once that happens, the university says it will see a spike in applications, donations and an overall improvement in its academics.
It’s a sunny vision of the future that not everyone thinks will come to pass. And while those individuals have mostly been Fort Collins residents, it now also includes Ridpath.

The Ohio University assistant professor of sports administration laid out research in a one-and-a-half hour slideshow that suggested the proposal was a “boondoggle” and dared the university to prove him wrong.

“Probably one of the most strident arguments I get when I have these impassioned arguments about intercollegiate athletics … is that more students will be interested in Colorado State University if we have this whiz-bang, huge, winning football program,” he said. “ … (University of Acron) just built a brand new on-campus stadium, brand new on-campus indoor football facility, they were the worst football program in Division I last year.”

And even if things were to turn out better for CSU’s program, Ridpath said it wouldn’t affect student application rates like university officials have argued. About 67 percent of students said that the creation of a world-class athletics program is unimportant in a Jan. 2012 ASCSU survey. Only 10 percent found it very important.

The statistics-based debunking fit into the sports expert’s overall critique of the argument for an on-campus stadium, as rhetoric lacking factual support.

“Show me that what you’re saying is backed up by data and research,” he said. “I want you to demonstrate that successful athletics does significantly increase application exposure … ”

Ridpath met with CSU President Tony Frank on Thursday to express these same concerns. But his opinions are not universal.

About 53 percent of people said they were opposed to the construction of an on-campus stadium in a survey conducted by CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation between February and March. Those in favor made up 24 percent of votes cast and the remaining 23 percent didn’t take a side.

“(Ridpath is) an interesting guy. Very smart, well spoken, CSU alum, which is great,” said Tim O’Hara, a Fort Collins photographer, CSU alum and on-campus stadium supporter. “I just feel there’s more to the stadium issue than financial (aspects).”

O’Hara explained that his enthusiasm for the proposal came after he was walked across the campus to attend a meeting and saw how much it had changed since he was a student from 1978 to 1982.

That’s when it clicked.

“We all go to Hughes, we all go home. We don’t see anything that has to do with Colorado State University,” he said. “ … Get people on campus. Get them engaged. Get them excited.”

What would follow, he said, is an increase in funds donated to the university.

And while debate roars in the background, university students and cabinet officials are currently researching whether the proposal can and should go forward as members of the CSU Stadium Advisory Committee. The group will report their findings to Frank by the end of spring semester.

The next committee meeting will be on April 20 at 7 p.m. in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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