Two writers and friends – Jim Caple and Alex Akita – both of whom have different backgrounds and writing styles, and two writers I really respect offer some thoughts on the students being moved to the end zone when the new Husky Stadium opens.
Caple, a proud Husky grad, wrote this story a few days ago …
The athletic department is doing this so it can sell the current student-section seats for a lot more money to older (i.e., wealthier) non-students who aren’t on daily macaroni-and-cheese diets. Worse, athletic director Scott Woodward insulted the students’ intelligence by saying, “They are really getting a bonanza.” Yes, he called it a bonanza. Sure it is, Scott! And the nearly 30 percent rise in tuition over the past two years is a gift to students that just keeps on giving!
Why do I care? Why does it bother me as an alumnus that the Huskies are opening up thousands of prime seats to myself and fellow older fans? Here’s why. Because when the students get hosed, the spray soaks the rest of us as well. The essence of college sports is that first word: college. Without the students — which also means the band and the cheerleaders — you don’t have college football anymore. You just have a slower, less talented NFL game without the fantasy leagues.
Students are crucial to the game-day atmosphere. One of the few ways left to recapture our youth is listening to the marching band play songs that were last popular a decade before we moved into our dorms. (The Husky band played Lady Gaga at a recent game, and I feared the NCAA would slap us with a two-season bowl ban for the performance of a song written within the past 20 years.) Singing your college fight song is medically proven to make you six months younger, and watching the cheerleaders dance is way more effective than Viagra or Cialis.
Akita, also a proud Husky alum and former Dawg Pack member , writes and designs the irreverent and humorous Seattle Sports Net blog. He also offered his thoughts … following up on Caple’s piece and talking about UW ignoring the students and the average, non-Tyee member fan. He sees it as a weakness of UW AD Scott Woodward in comparison to former AD Todd Turner’s one strength.
Where Woodward excels is as a master businessman. He’s a professional when it comes to raising money, building a brand, and selling a product. He glad-hands the boosters, gets them to open their checkbooks, and makes sure that the high rollers are taken care of. Not coincidentally, these are traits that Turner failed to possess.
Where Woodward suffers, however, is in getting the Average Joe (and more specifically, the young Average Joe) to feel welcome inside his circle of elitism. Think of it this way. Woodward is the owner of the swank night club that you can’t get into. He’s making loads of money off his existing customers, while alienating a much larger group of potential customers. His weakness is in engaging the students and recent college grads who will one day become not-so-recent grads with checkbooks of their own.
But where Woodward is weak, Turner was strong.
Under Turner’s direction, the athletic department strove to build a family atmosphere. This may not have been all that evident on the football field, where the head coach did his very best to neutralize Turner’s gregariousness with dickish behavior, but it was certainly apparent inside the friendly confines of Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
My thoughts: I always error on the side of the students. Yes, it’s that simple. My alma mater, the University of Montana keeps a good portion of the students in quality seating with some overflow into the end zone. And for a stadium that only holds 25,000, that’s a big deal. If we are going to call players STUDENT-athletes, then you can’t forget about the STUDENTS as a whole. We all know most of these sports get treated as business in every respect, can’t we maintain at least a minor aspect that help maintain the facade that isn’t all about money.