“Bring back women’s hockey,” writes former Grand Forks Herald publisher Mike Jacobs in a column this week.
As you readers will remember the women’s hockey program at the University of North Dakota was axed by President Mark Kennedy, a decision which created no small amount of controversy. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp even jumped into the debate ahead of what she knew would be a hotly contested election year.
You gotta love politicians. Ever the opportunists.
Anyway, the controversy was renewed when some alums of that program, the Lamoreux twins, won gold at the Olympic games in South Korea, which prompted the call from Jacobs.
But Jacobs, like most defenders of that sports program, leaves some important information out. Namely, the terrible financial burden the program represented for students and taxpayers.
To the right is a table showing the cost to taxpayers and students of each sport at UND (including women’s hockey) in 2016. This number is the difference between what each sport generated in revenue (ticket sales, merchandise sales, etc., etc.) and what they cost.
Women’s hockey wasn’t the biggest loser, financially, but it was the second biggest.
Frankly, none of these losses are acceptable. Sports programs should not be a financial burden on institutions of education. The cost of higher education is high enough without burdening students with the cost of sports teams.
But a big reason why women’s hockey was in such poor financial shape was because few people attended games. The women’s hockey team sold just over $25,000 worth of tickets in all of 2016. Attendance was sparse, to put it lightly. 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.
This is the ugly truth people like Jacobs want to ignore. They prefer the narrative of the evil President Mark Kennedy, a former Republican member of Congress among his sins, callously shutting down a women’s sports program for giggles or something.
But that’s just not the truth. The women’s hockey program has some intense supporters, sure, but not many supporters. Shutting down the program made financial support for the school.
We should go further, really. The sound policy toward sports programs in higher education should be a mandate that they operate on their own revenue and not subsidies from taxpayers and students.
Getting an education at public institutions shouldn’t cost more because of the sports programs.