Athletic forum shuts down new sports ideas

The Athletics Interest Public Forum was held on Tuesday, Oct. 15, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Catamount Room located in the University Center.

Dr. Henry Wong, director for the office of equal opportunity and diversity programs, and Randy Eaton, athletic director hosted the event. Numerous Western Carolina University faculty, staff and students attended this forum.

The purpose of this forum, described by Wong, was “to determine the interest and abilities of sports not offered at WCU.”

This was the end purpose of the university, but there was another underlying purpose achieved. Students were able to ask questions and create a dialogue about why Western Carolina does not have certain sports, the reasoning behind WCU not having these sports and plans for adding sports down the road.

The conversation in the forum was rugged due to the university asking questions they wanted answered first before students knew the purpose of the questions.

Wong headed up the first part of the forum, asking the students who attended numerous questions, such as, “What sports, other than the ones sponsored, did you have experience in at Western Carolina?” and “What are sports that you don’t participate in that you would like to see?”

Students responded with the same answers that consisted of the following sports: tennis, bowling, wrestling, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s soccer, swimming and diving, women’s rugby, women’s equestrian and a rifle team.

The second half of the forum, the floor was opened up to students to ask questions. Eaton took on those questions.

Eaton first gave a short description on Title IX to the students and faculty in attendance.

A document titled “About Title IX,” found on the Western Carolina website stated, “Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.”

Eaton explained, “That in practice, Title IX requires a university to have the percentage of the sex of athletes be equivalent to the percentage of that sex of students across the entire university.”

According to the forum, there are approximately 55 percent females on WCU’s campus, and in sports at WCU, the population of females is only 45 percent.  There is an approximate 10 percent deficit of females in regards to Title IX.

“We have to fix the problem we got before we move forward with any new men’s program,” said Eaton.

The easy way to fix the problem, said Eaton, was to drop a men’s sport and add a women’s sport. However, the university does not find it advantageous to drop a men’s sport. Eaton wants to add one to three women’s sports, depending on the number of female athletes.

Currently, however, Eaton does not want to add a new sport due to WCU’s athletic financial situation.

He stated, “Western Carolina University is at the low end of the budget for our competition. Thirteen out of our 16 sports are in the bottom half of funding in scholarships, [and] 15 out of 16 sports are in the bottom half of funding in operating costs. Within the Southern Conference, Western Carolina University is eleventh out of the 11 other universities in overall budget and scholarship budget.

“It makes no sense to me to start athletic programs that are doomed to failure by Day 1,” said Eaton. “Do you want to have a sport just to have a sport? Or, do you want to give your student athletes an opportunity to be successful in the classroom and on the field?”

Eaton implied that the current sports offered at WCU need to grow, become consistently successful and have more donation dollars before a new sport can be added.

Although not looking for sports currently, the university is looking for resources within our university before we look outside of it, coming to the reason for having the forum in the first place.

Morgan Borkey, a sophomore communications science and disorders major, said, “Going to the forum gave me insight about why certain sports are and aren’t offered here. I am so excited for the faculty and staff to bring new athletics to our school so we can compete against a wider variety of schools and grow as a university.”

There will be another Athletics Interest Public Forum next semester for students who want to attend. Also, there will be a survey sent out about the individual student’s interests and abilities for analysis by the Athletic Department for future expansion of Catamount sports.