A certain incongruity exists between athletic funding and student interest in sports at WCU, drawing a line between student apathy and the practicalities of being a division two school. 90 percent of funding for athletic programs at WCU comes from student fees, specifically the $91 Student Services, Inc. fee that is part of every student’s tuition each semester. Part of this fee goes towards athletics, while some of the money also goes towards student activities and clubs.
The other ten percent of athletic funding is given to the athletic department by the university. With 12,697 students at West Chester, the SSI fee amounts to quite a bit of money.
While WCU isn’t considered to be an un-athletic university, with men’s and women’s teams for over a dozen sports plus intramurals and recreational leagues, student interest in supporting the various sports teams and attending sporting events does not attest to strong school spirit.
Assistant Director of Athletics Barbara Cleghorn said that the amount of interest is typical for a division two school, and that “there are a lot of other things to see and do for students in this area than go to sports events.”
Funding for different teams is decided through a tier system. Not every team is provided with equal funding. For example, all teams on tier one get the same amount of funding as each other, but teams on tier two are not guaranteed any specific amount of the budget. It is also sport-dependent, as some sports require a greater amount of equipment than others. Team coaches also propose a budget to the athletic director each year for their sport’s needs such as transportation and uniforms. The budget is consequently never the same for every team each year. “We can’t buy everybody everything every year,” Cleghorn said.
Part of student interest derives from any given team’s seasonal success or the amount of students knowing an athlete involved in a sport. Championship teams always attract more interest and support, while a team with a losing season may not receive much attention. For example, this past week the women’s soccer team was involved in the NCAA II championships in Pensacola, Florida.
Another factor is that a sport with more athletes involved will usually draw greater interest because of the greater amount of association with other students those athletes collectively have throughout the university.
WCU senior and member of the men’s baseball team Randy Milia said, “Not that many people typically come out to baseball games because some people find baseball boring to watch. I’d say football generally gets the most attention. Most students don’t have much interest because it’s a D2 school.”
Jesse Tedder, a member of the men’s diving team said, “We usually get a pretty good amount of spectators at our home meets, mostly friends and parents. I think there is definitely an interest from most students in sports in general.” These two varying viewpoints enforce the theory that student interest and attention to sports changes for each different team.
Funding for athletics is unrelated to the amount of interest the student body may show to any particular sport. The SSI fee is a steady factor in every student’s tuition and all athletic scholarships are provided for through money acquired in fundraising programs. Interest, or the lack thereof, in sports at WCU lies in school spirit among the general student body and the state of being a D2 school.