In regards to the recent student referendum on football at UTSA, here are a few thoughts from one faculty member’s perspective.

First, a caveat: I am not anti-football. In fact, I love the sport. I played it. I received two degrees from an SEC school prominent for its football program (which I still follow avidly). I still go to high school football games even though my kids are no longer involved. Football, and athletics in general, can be a very important part of the college experience.

That said, I, and many of my colleagues have expressed concerns about the circumstances surrounding the initiative to bring football to UTSA. Perhaps foremost is the conflation of acquiring football and acquiring Tier 1 status for the university.

For instance, it has been reported to the Faculty Senate that during summer orientation meetings, university representatives exhorted students to vote in favor of football in the just completed referendum. Why? It would help the university obtain Tier 1 status.

This is disingenuous, at best. I wonder, in the interest of providing diversity of opinion, if a critic of football would have been given the time of day, much less the time to make an opposing case to students.

The argument given to the students is classic confusion of correlate and cause – a confusion that faculty desperately hope is driven out of students by the time they leave the university.

To have such a misleading argument be their introduction to critical thinking at the university is sad. Football, whatever its value to the university, is not going to help take us to Tier 1 status.

What will eventually get us there is leadership that dispenses with rhetoric and begins to seriously invest in academics-increasing excellent teaching and research faculty hires, providing more classroom space, supporting major enhancements to the library, improving non-tenure track faculty salaries and a host of other things.

We have faculty in the College of Sciences who are still waiting for laboratory space promised to them when they were hired years ago. In my own department, despite the soaring student enrollment over the past decade, we have fewer tenure-track mathematics faculty now than in 2000.

There is a very real concern among many faculty members that the acquisition of a full-fledged football program will further distract from the academic initiative and divert resources (money, time, space, construction, personnel) that are desperately needed to move us toward the Tier 1 status that the university apparently covets. Whether this concern is valid remains to be seen.

However, to my knowledge, the university administration has never fully engaged faculty in a discussion about the issue, nor have we been asked to provide an analysis of the faculty’s perspective on this or on the Athletics Feasibility Study.

While it might be that some faculty, like some students, are sniffily dismissive of athletics, most would give thoughtful consideration to the positives and negatives of initiating a football program and would be able to provide important insights to those making the ultimate decision.

While referenda certainly provide useful information, in the end, they are nothing more than popularity contests. For a decision on an issue with as much potential impact as adopting a football program, a more cogent analysis and more extensive input should be required.

Personally, I hope the findings of such an analysis would show that a football program will be of long-term and significant benefit to the university.

However, I also hope that the university will dispense with trying to “market” the team and rather provide a compelling rationale for why it would be in our best interests to pursue this particular initiative.

Go Dawgs! ….. and `Runners!

Sandy NormanInterim Chair, Mathematics Secretary, UTSA General Faculty

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