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Thursday, May 5, 2016

For all the right reasons

Friday, June 11, 2010

When I wrote my story yesterday on DePauw's choice to leave the SCAC and join the NCAC, I made a comparison to the major conference juggling that's currently going on in Division I athletics.

On the surface, it's a valid comparison. DePauw has assessed its situation and decided the best choice is to join a different conference. It's a matter of the university's best interest.

I suppose Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Notre Dame and all the others are all acting in what they consider their best interest in whether to stay or go.

But exactly what does best interest mean in these different situations?

For DePauw, the decision appears to come down to three factors, and all relate to travel: its effects on the student athletes, its effects on the environment and its effects on the university's budget.

"Many factors played a part in this decision. Chief among them was a desire for a less strenuous and more environmentally friendly travel regimen for our teams," DePauw President Brian Casey said of the move.

For the big boys at the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big XIV, the move seems to only be about one thing: more money.

In moving to the NCAC, DePauw is cutting out some major travel from its schedule. As noted, the Tigers' nearest SCAC opponent is Centre College in Danville, Ky., some 233 miles away. By comparison, four of their nine NCAC opponents will be that close or closer, with Wabash only 27 miles up 231.

On the other hand, three of the other SCAC institutions were more than 1,000 miles from Greencastle. In the NCAC, the longest trip will be 452 miles to Allegheny College in northwestern Pennsylvania.

What does this mean for the school? It obviously has an effect on the bottom line. While the school has released no estimates, the shorter bus rides and the likely elimination of air travel all together will mean untold thousands in savings.

It's just a smart move.

We also have the environmental aspect of it all. Greencastle has been recognized again and again in recent years for being a "green" community, and DePauw has been a major part of those efforts. As responsible stewards of the environment, President Casey, Athletic Director Page Cotton and the other decision makers at DePauw have made the sustainable choice in this matter.

Finally, and most importantly, there is the effect on the student athletes. When we have these long bus trips or plane trips, not only were the students missing class, they were likely returning fatigued, jet-lagged and less prepared for excellence in the classroom.

While I'm not saying DePauw athletes were struggling in class (I'm actually confident the opposite is true at this institution.), I am saying it had to have some effect. Too much time on the road and having games that stretch across three time zones was only asking for trouble.

By joining the NCAC, these problems are kept much more in check -- 452 miles, three states and one time zone.

I like the math better.

On the other hand, if you look at the moves in the major conferences, the financial argument seems to be the only one considered.

I will cede the point that it's a good move financially, particularly for football. The most recent estimates indicate that Big XIV teams make between $7 million and $10 million in television revenue. In the Big Ten, on the other hand, each school makes in excess of $20 million.

The move of schools to the Big Ten or Pac-10 (or whatever we'll call them now) will boost the money made by the ex-Big XIV schools. The moves certainly help financially.

But what about the other factors we discussed earlier? Fuel usage will skyrocket for these schools. Can you imagine the road trip from College Station, Texas to Seattle Washington? It's in the neighborhood of 2,000 miles.

And what about the student athletes? Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I thought priority No. 1 was educating these kids. How is that getting done when they are flying halfway across the country for a mid-week soccer match?

The short answer is: It isn't, at least not well.

Thank you, Dr. Casey, Mr. Cotton and all the rest, for putting the right interests first. Thanks for doing the right thing.

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