EDITORIAL: Fans deserve to know where athletic department stands

Illustration by Rob Gebelhoff/ robert.gebelhoff@mu.edu

With the recent Big East departures of Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten, along with the additions of Tulane and East Carolina (for football only), it is time for Marquette students to be given answers on where the university stands in terms of its athletic future.

Director of Athletics Larry Williams has always affirmed that Marquette will stay committed to the Big East but also do what it can to protect itself for the future.

But remaining in the Big East only because of its name doesn’t do Marquette fans and donors much good, especially the students whose tuition is potentially affected by some of the revenue the sports teams bring in.

Just because the Big East is still being called the Big East doesn’t mean it is the proud conference it once was. In addition to the departures of Louisville and Rutgers, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have all left for greener pastures in the last year.

The biggest reason for these teams’ exoduses is a desire to ensure their collective financial future with a solid football conference. Big East football has reeked of mediocrity for some time now, and it’s difficult to blame schools for jumping ship.

That still leaves those Big East schools without major football teams, including Marquette, in the dust. We need to know that there is a plan in place for when the Big East effectively won’t support the revenue stream that Marquette athletics has traditionally brought in.

There is no question that the men’s basketball program is Marquette’s leading team in terms of revenue. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics report from the period of July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012, Marquette reported that the men’s basketball team produced $14,389,717 in revenue. Compare that to the total revenue for all sports – men’s and women’s – of $26,504,896.

We have no doubt that Williams and other administrators have a plan for when the school finally decides it’s time to look out for itself instead of sitting back and waiting.

The thing that bothers us is that the athletic department is staying hush-hush on the topic. There isn’t any way it can be naïve enough to believe that sticking with the Big East as we now know it is a valid long-term plan.

Schools like Southern Methodist, Houston, Memphis and Central Florida aren’t quite the same as Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. There have been countless rumors and speculation about where other schools, not just Marquette, will end up when all the dust settles.

One solution we support is an all-Catholic league in which the Golden Eagles would join forces with other non-football schools like DePaul, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova, and maybe even Creighton, Xavier and Saint Louis.

Men’s basketball coach Buzz Williams is another voice the student body would like to hear. He did offer some thoughts on the subject to the Journal Sentinel’s Michael Hunt last week: “I don’t know (what the future holds),” Williams said. “As I’ve said all along, the commitment from the institution and the department is going to stay what it is. I trust that we’ll put ourselves in the best position possible for our future. What league that’s in, who’s in it, all of those things, I don’t know.”

It’s hard to blame Williams. He hasn’t exactly had a rosy relationship with Larry Williams since the latter was named Director of Athletics exactly one year ago today. So maybe Buzz really doesn’t know where the athletic department is headed.

But as students of this institution who pay upwards of $30,00 per year and are rewarded with fine athletic programs every year, we deserve to know where our school stands and what the future holds.

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