The struggles of the football program, and some comments related to whether or not we can afford to fire Wulff, have led me to begin to question a few things about WSU athletics. First, let’s establish a few premises that I am operating under, and keep in mind that I have never worked in any sort of AD’s office, sports department, etc. But I have worked in public education and have a small idea of how public funds work for sports at the high school level.
We compete in two truly major sports (football and men’s basketball), five big/major sports (women’s soccer, women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, baseball, and track and field) and a handful of smaller sports (Cross Country, Golf, Women’s Crew, and Swimming). Our budget is tight, and the major sports are ultimately fighting over the same dollars while the scraps go to our smaller budget sports.
Are we a university that can only support one "truly major" sport, and keep our major sports competitive, while acknowledging that our other "truly major" sport will have to suffer? To get to the heart of my question, if we want to continue to see a successful basketball team, does that mean that we will have to accept a football team playing on a lower budget, and likely sitting at the bottom of the PAC 10. Seeing as we are currently relatively successful in women’s soccer, volleyball, and track and field, it is not like our name sports as a whole are bottom of the barrel. But of the two headline grabbing sports, I am beginning to feel like we cannot keep up with the Joneses in both basketball and football as far as coach pay, cost of recruiting, etc. without significantly sacrificing our other sports.
Obviously, one massive variable that I cannot predict is alumni donations. If the alumni suddenly donate millions of dollars to our athletic fund or to our basketball excellence fund then the game for WSU would change rapidly and significantly. But I assume that in this economic climate, we will not see a sea change in donations over the next few years.
My real question to the masses is this: If being competitive at a national level in basketball means that football will be an also ran, are we willing to accept that? How about vice versa? Keep in mind I am not claiming that we are a national power in basketball at the moment, but simply stating that our current progress shows that we have the foundations for a successful program that should be sustainable over multiple years, and maybe even decades. But if we could build a basketball program that made the tournament 3 out of 4 years, made the sweet sixteen and possibly the final four in the great years, would that be a decent trade off for a football team that might have a ceiling of the sun bowl or other years. Would we accept the situation of my years at WSU, where the football team reached the Sun, Rose, and Holiday bowls while the basketball team played to an empty stadium and lost enough to fail to qualify for the Pac 10 tournament before it expanded to all teams? Which is preferable? And if it’s neither, then how do we address our budget shortfalls and build winners in multiple sports?
I apologize for the length, but wanted to try and explain my question as well as I could.