U should combine athletics departments

The University is a bit of a structural oddity these days. Not because of the rampant construction on campus, but rather the administrative structure of the athletics departments. The University is one of only five Division I schools that separate men’s and women’s athletics departments, and it is the only one left in the Big Ten. Clearly, other universities have recognized the need for change. It is time the University does the same.

There are too many benefits of integration to leave the administrative structure as it is. The most understandable benefit is the reduction of managerial costs. Right now duplicate operations occur, and if the departments were to consolidate, all procedures would be housed under the same roof. For instance, each department employs its own photographer, its own ticket managers, its own equipment room personnel, its own public relations professionals and its own accountants. The financial implications of such duplicity are immense and rob programs of funding, and removing these repetitive costs would lower total expenses and help the University save some money.

Another benefit of consolidation is improved communication through more efficient structuring. Currently, the coaching and administrative structure is based on gender. However, it would be more efficient if the organizational structure was based on geography, facilities, season and sport. This transformation creates a synergy that provides better communication and direction, said Bob Bowlsby, director of the University of Iowa’s Athletics Department. Rather than having men’s and women’s basketball programs inharmoniously segregated, the two would work together, creating both economies of scale and scope, sharing information, ideas and capital that can make both teams better.

The University’s athletics departments have remained separate because of tradition and University politics. The women’s department is a source of pride for both the administrators and the female athletes. Seeing women in decision-making positions provides role models for females, said women’s athletics director, Chris Voelz. Also, the smooth operation of women’s athletics under Voelz sharply contrasts the controversy-marred men’s department that is indicative of the need for change. Because the women have been separated from the corruption in the men’s department, the women have seen unprecedented success on and off the field. Over the past five years, there have been four Big Ten Team Champions, and they are now celebrating 10 consecutive terms with female athletes earning above a 3.0 grade point average.

On the other hand, the past five years for the men’s department have been stigmatized by academic fraud and lack of institutional control. A systematic and widespread scandal in the men’s basketball department led to the departure of four top administrators, and similar charges of academic misconduct are suspected of several football players. With such poor leadership on one end of the spectrum, the logic seems clear: Unite under what is successful.

State politics also play a large role in the current separation of departments. The Minnesota Legislature allocates $7.1 million to be used exclusively for women’s s. Money, critics of consolidation say, the University would not receive if the school had one athletics department.

The latter crux has kept the departments separated. The Legislature accounts for nearly 70 percent of the revenue used to pay for women’s athletics. Still, the University would not have to change the way it allocates funds to men’s and women’s athletics because state funds are given to the University lumped together and an internal decision is made on how much athletics as a whole will receive. Then, they make sure to give the women’s department at least its state allocated $7.1 million. If the departments were combined, the University would simply have to show the Legislature that women’s teams were still receiving their designated funding.

One current aspect of athletics at the University must remain in tact with consolidation: women’s access to quality facilities and coaching. Facilities primarily devoted to women athletes are a unique draw to this institution, and compromising them would not only hinder some of the most successful athletes at this school, but it would also violate Title IX requirements. Most universities created gender-specific departments after the passing of Title IX, which helped women athletes gain equal status. Restricting access or funds to women’s sports would be discriminatory and unfair; they deserve the resources that are necessary to the success of any athlete, man or woman.

With tuition increases in double-digit percentages, the need for cost reduction is clear. Split athletics departments are undoubtedly a dying tradition, and the University should make the switch to joint management. By consolidating the women’s and men’s athletics departments, the University will not only be lowering costs but also creating a more organized, more efficient department.