Jan 302012
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

CSU wasn’t my first choice of school. It wasn’t my second or third choice, either. And thanks to my Catholic guilt, I’ll be really honest with you: it never even made it in my top 15.

Before you say, “Girl, you better not be about to talk smack about the school that’s giving you your education!,” allow me to explain. In high school, I chose my “top schools” because they had blaring, albeit overly romanticized, selling-points for me — and at the time, CSU just lacked that “must-attend” factor.

Notre Dame was the prestigious private university with the gorgeous campus that was sure to make me an esteemed book editor who was best friends with lovable alum Regis Philbin. The University of Washington, with an even more beautiful campus, was going to raise me to the top-tier in academia with its superb programs, and along the way, I’d definitely fall in love with some Seattle-based musician named Juan.

But these unrealistic university dreams, among others, dissipated when I realized, “Shoot, I stupidly didn’t apply for enough scholarships. There’s no way I can afford to attend my ‘dream schools’.” So, with an acceptance letter from CSU, means to pay for it, but very little idea of what the school had to offer, I signed myself up.

And now, with Athletic Director Jack Graham’s passionate plan to build an on-campus football stadium, it seems the university is desperately trying to procure at least some type of “selling-point” — something that will elevate it up from what many considered their “safety school.”

As many would agree, after spending some time at CSU, it has transcended from “safety school” to a place to love — thanks to the wonderful people, opportunities and town of Fort Collins. And of course, there are many students who did seek out CSU as their top choice, for some of the reasons I had come to discover later.

But I can’t help but wonder: will an on-campus stadium really be the catalyst for elevated school spirit and possible subsequent improvement of our football team? Or is the university directing significant effort and finances toward something that really isn’t in the best interest of who we are as a university?

And that then raises another question. Who ARE we? (By “we,” of course, I mean CSU. We can save the personal existentialism for later.)

Over 100 years ago, that answer would have been simple. But having grown from our roots as a primarily-agricultural university, it seems that we haven’t really been able to establish a clear reputation, or a “selling-point.”

We have esteemed academic departments, but not enough people acknowledge their achievements to brand CSU as a “top-tier” school. And our sports teams have excelled in many arenas, but our football team has never reached the level of excellence to attract enough people to the school solely because of it.

In a recent New York Times article entitled “How Big Time Sports Ate College Life,” Drake Group, an advocate for academic integrity in college sports, acknowledges the dependency so many American universities have on their athletic reputation.

“It’s become so important on the college campus that it’s one of the only ways the student body knows how to come together,” Group said in the article.

“In China and other parts of the world, there are no gigantic stadiums in the middle of campus. There is a laser focus on education as being the major thing. In the United States, we play football,” he said.

But really, is this something to be proud of?

Sure, universities with Division I football teams bring in millions of dollars of revenue a year, but most of those universities –– like Penn State –– draw people to them solely based on their athletic teams’ outstanding reputations. But the truth is –– CSU just doesn’t have that reputation right now.

I know I’m probably biased, in that, the previous paragraph contained the very first time I ever typed the words “Division I football” –– and let me tell you, it felt pretty uncomfortable. But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking the on-campus stadium plan is displaying a skewed sense of priorities.

Not only will we have to conquer surmounting logistical obstacles to make the stadium possible, but we’re also going to be making a huge public statement –– a statement that shows our priorities lying in the already-struggling athletic department.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s where the heart of CSU truly lies.

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com._

 Posted by at 12:04 pm

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