UPDATE: If you want an overall financial picture of sports at the University of North Dakota check out this post based on numbers I received from the school this morning.
According to a report from my colleague Brad Schlossman the Lamoureux twins, high profile product of the women’s hockey program at the University of North Dakota, are vowing to fight the school’s decision to shutter the team.
The twins sent UND President Mark Kennedy a letter, signed by their teammates on the U.S. Women’s National Team (which is currently competing in Michigan, apparently) and they “also said they are willing to use their platform for their cause,” Schlossman reports.
This is an endeavor doomed to failure for a couple reasons.
The first is math.
Judging by the social media reaction to the announcing demise of the team, and the perpetration of at least one on-campus publicity stunt, a lot of people like the idea of a women’s hockey program at UND. Unfortunately most of these people are hypocrites who weren’t putting their money where their mouths reside.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]The students of UND, not to mention the taxpayers, have no duty to support a sports program the fans of which didn’t care enough about to support themselves.[/mks_pullquote]
Per numbers I disclosed last week, the women’s hockey team sold just over $25,000 worth of tickets in 2016. Overall the program generated just over $212,000 worth of revenue, and we only reach that figure if we generously count more than $158,000 of “institutional support” as generated revenue instead of the subsidy it is.
Contrast that pittance with the more than $2.1 million in expenses the program incurred in 2016 and you begin to see the problem. UND, much like the rest of our state, is facing budget problems. The women’s hockey program loses a lot of money. The students of UND, not to mention the taxpayers, have no duty to support a sports program the fans of which didn’t care enough about to support themselves.
It’s fair to note that all the other sports programs at UND also lose money (I’m working on getting the financials), but that does nothing to change the fiscal realities of the women’s hockey program.
Which brings us to the second problem with the Lamoureux’s war: They’re taking the wrong tack.
Instead of making negative argument about UND’s decision to cut the program, the Lamoureuxs and other high-profile proponents of women’s hockey should be trying to figure out how to move these programs beyond the reaches of budget writers and bureaucrats.
If enough people feel that women’s hockey is of “generational” importance, as the Lamoureux put it in their letter, then surely a program can be supported by donations and revenues from fans.
I’m not sure I believe that, based on the numbers from the UND program, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
The goal for proponents of women’s hockey at UND – and, really, all collegiate athletic programs – should be fiscal independence. Something which would not only shield these teams from the politics of taxpayer financing, but also remove from the backs of students and taxpayers the heavy burden of subsidizing sports teams which are, we must admit, far outside of the scope of the academic missions of our universities.