By Delaney Brown and Alex Eubanks
Let’s Talk Athletics, a Student Government sponsored forum, aimed to set the record straight on what the $1.5 million campus athletics program would look like.
In order to be considered for admission into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and its Sun Conference, the university would be required to finance at least eight sports.
“There are better ways to spend a million dollars,” said Juliet Dipreta, a sophomore mass communications major who attended the forum. “What about getting a parking garage that can actually fit all of our students?”
In an early athletic feasibility study, Kurt Patberg, senior vice president of Athletic Staffing and Consultants, proposed men’s and women’s soccer, cross country, golf, tennis and softball as potential athletics that would allow USF St. Petersburg to qualify.
“The cost is the biggest downside,” said Patberg, “The money has to come from somewhere.”
Patberg estimates that 85 percent of the funding for the new program would come from student fees.
In order to bring athletics to the St. Petersburg campus, the current student athletic fee, $2.45 per credit hour, would need to rise closer to the $14.46 fee that students on the Tampa campus pay.
Patberg also emphasized the point that athletics at St. Petersburg would not look like athletics at Tampa, at least not right away.
Due to cost and facility issues, the fledgling program would likely not include popular sports like basketball and softball. Football, which would conflict with the team housed on the Tampa campus, is not a remote possibility.
Despite the difficulties that come with starting a new program, Patberg thinks athletics could be good for the campus in the long run.
Athletic programs drive recruitment. Schools like the University of North Carolina in Wilmington and University of Texas in Arlington, which both feature Division 1 athletics programs, have become increasingly popular even among students who aren’t athletes.
At the NAIA level, student athletes generally have higher GPAs and retention rates than the general student body.
Patberg also believes that having its own athletic program would help USF St. Petersburg’s branding and visibility efforts.
“I’ve seen very few schools become movers and shakers in the community without athletics,” said Patberg.
However, not all those in attendance shared Patberg’s vision. Many questioned just how feasible an athletic program would be.
“Students had a hard time passing the Student Green Energy Fund and that was only another dollar per credit hour,” said a faculty member from the audience.
Andres Sanchez, a sophomore mass communications major, supports the implementation of an athletics program. He just doesn’t think that the university is approaching it the right way.
“It scares me to think of the growing pains we would have to go through to get people to come out and support us if we still can’t get fans in the stands for an already established football and basketball program (in Tampa),” said Sanchez.
For him, it’s hard to imagine attending games when venues aren’t even lined up.
“I am all for athletics on campus. I just don’t think we are ready yet,” Sanchez said.
Pictured Above: Kurt Patberg, senior vice president of Athletic Staffing and Consultants, talks about the potential for men’s and women’s soccer, cross country, golf, tennis and softball on campus. Jonah Hinebaugh | The Crow’s Nest