Deficit does not make an impact on athletics

Sophie Robertson | Contributing Reporter |

Police guide traffic through the streets as students abandon their studies. Blue and white speckles the stadium as videographers stream the fans’ reactions. Trip pants on the sidelines as Dawg Pound grunts behind the baskets. Coaches furrow their brows as basketballs hurl across the floor. There’s no place better than Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse on game day.

Despite Butler University’s current financial crisis, this atmosphere is maintained, and athletics continue in full force.

Butler spends big on athletics. So big that the salary of the men’s basketball head coach is equal to more than two times that of the university president and more than five times that of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences dean.

The previous head coach, Brad Stevens, made an annual salary of  more than $1.1 million, according to the university’s 2013 public tax records. Butler University President James Danko made about $480,000, and previous COPHS Dean Mary Andritz made around $225,000.

As seen through its finances, Butler is dedicated to its athletics. In the midst of reduced funds for academic programs, this commitment to athletics is rewarded by the department’s contribution to campus culture and consequent aid in the attraction of prospective students and potential funds.

When asked which factors are most beneficial to Butler’s promotion, Vice President for Enrollment Management Lori Greene mentioned a conglomeration of characteristics.

“There are students who have heard of Butler through athletics but more often than not, it is our campus size, community and academic offerings that determine if a student will actually apply and consider Butler in the college selection process,” Greene wrote in an email.

She said athletic offers no doubt play a huge role in their decision to attend Butler.

Football player and track athlete Tim Vestuto said the biggest factors in his decision to attend Butler were academic scholarships and the opportunity to participate in both sports.

“I wouldn’t have looked at Butler if sports wasn’t in the picture because involvement in sports had always been a part of my life,” Vestuto said.

For non-athletes, other factors come into play.

“Prospective students want to be able to choose a major that aligns with their interests and career goals with solid success rates,” Greene wrote. “For instance, if we don’t offer a major that a student wants, like architecture, it doesn’t matter that we have enjoyed some success via our athletic programs.”

Nonetheless, success by athletic programs has definitely helped. Assistant Coach of men’s basketball Michael Lewis argued that sports are crucial for exposure. Men’s basketball, in particular, has given Butler a “platform on the national stage” because of its involvement in the NCAA tournaments and its ability to reach wider audiences through media coverage.

In fact, before Butler’s success in March Madness in 2010 total applications to the university ranged around 7,000. Ever since, total applications have ranged around 10,000, proving an increase in interest.

“This media coverage may bring Butler to the forefront, but it is the realization of what Butler has to offer as a whole that recruits potential non-athlete students,” Lewis said.

When asked about what athletics offers to the community as a whole, Vestuto said sports provide opportunities for the community to come together and unify under their pride in the Butler Bulldogs and the rallying cry, “Go Dawgs.”

Adam Bruh, assistant coach of men’s soccer, expanded on this shared experience.

“Caring about sports and the success of the athletic teams, seems to be something that bonds all students,” Bruh wrote in an email. “Whether they participated in sports prior, watched sports prior or never had anything to do with sports before coming to Butler.”

In regards to the importance of athletics, Lewis said, “You hope your sports teams reflect your campus, and your campus also reflects the type of culture you are trying to reflect in your athletic department.”

Lewis said he thinks budget cuts will be felt across the board.

“We are just as responsible as any other department on campus to protect the well-being of the university,” Lewis said.

Men’s basketball is no more important than any other department. It just gets Butler on the public’s minds, Lewis said.

Although budget cuts to academic departments and increased tuition to current and prospective students resulted from the financial crisis, Butler remained dedicated to its athletics. The camaraderie sports offer and the media it attracts draws interest from prospective students. A result much needed when enrollment in the university has not reached its projected numbers and necessary funds.