Justin R. Lessman
Student athlete absences from class and the sacrifice of academics for sports if SDSU moves to Division I athletic competition were main concerns among faculty at an open-forum Academic Senate meeting last Tuesday.
Athletic Director Fred Oien discussed the university’s current DI proposal with members of the senate.
Senate Chair Patty Hacker said the meeting with Oien was planned to give faculty an opportunity to better understand the proposal and its implications.
Oien said student athlete absences from class were not expected to pose a problem if SDSU moved from DII to DI within the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
“Many of you are wondering if students will be gone all of the time,” he said. “I do not see this as a problem. We are under the impression that students will miss at the same rates as now.”
Joel Hefling, from the College of Arts and Science asked Oien if evidence existed to indicate that being a DI school would draw more non-athlete students to the university.
Oien cited a poll that found 31 percent of students attending a DI school felt their decision to attend was impacted by the school’s division standing. Conversely, he said, only six percent answered the same when it concerned a DII school.
Oien also cited a survey that found SDSU students over- whelmingly in favor of the school going DII.
“The students were our most supportive group,” he said. “Even the analysts were shocked.”
He said a majority of faculty were in favor of the move.
A question about too much focus on athletics and not enough on academics was raised.
Oien said he believed SDSU is above recruiting students just because they are gifted athletically and not for academic reasons.
“This institution will never sacrifice the quality of students to get a good athlete,” he said. “An institution can compete at a high athletic and academic level.”
Another qestion is the cost.
Oien said there was no doubt that the athletic budget would increase with a move. He said, currently, 60 percent of the athletic budget is from student fees and salary money from the state. The other 40 percent, he said, is from “auxiliary” sources including donors, gate and concessions, and corporate sponsorships.
Oien said funds would not be transferred from academic programs.
“No money from the academic budget will be shifted to the athletic department,” he said. “They’re separate budgets. I can’t imagine any (university) president would do something like that.”
“SDSU is prepared and capable of this. We have DI athletes at South Dakota State. We need to have options so that as student athletes come here, they have the opportunity to play athletics at the highest possible level.”
Hacker said the Senate’s Executive Committee would soon discuss issuing a recommendationabout the proposal.
“We’ll come to the individual units to form our recommendation for the Leadership Committee,” she said. “This meeting was just to be an initiation of conversation and to begin to address issues.”
The Executive Committee will meet Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. in the Student Union. The Academic Senate’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 8 in the Union.