Inside Higher Ed ran a story this week about the demise of Miami University’s independent NPR-affiliated radio station, WMUB. Historiann lived in Oxford from 1997-2001, owned a home there, and was a responsible public radio member/listener. We listened to the station all day long–even “Mama Jazz” in the evenings. I volunteered to answer phones on the early morning shift for their fund drives.
I understand that in these lean budgetary years, programs that are not “mission-critical” will get the ax. My question is this: why are college sports teams ever seen as “mission-critical?” The marquee sports–men’s football and men’s basketball–involve only a tiny handful of students who are unrepresentative of the student body on most campuses (since women are the majority of college students.) Why not just drop out of the NCAA and turn them into club sports, as so many women’s teams and other men’s teams are? Early in this decade, Miami University built a fancy new academic building down by their playing fields that is only for the use of student athletes. It was apparently too much for their preciousnesses to hike up to a classroom building or the library to get their homework done! Why the superstar treatment? I know it’s the “Cradle of Coaches,” but it has produced only one NFL player in recent memory? (And no, the vast majority of sports programs don’t make money–they consume it.) Why does higher ed agree to run a free double- and triple-A league for the NBA and the NFL? MLB and the NHL have done just fine, thank you very much, without this kind of welfare giveaway.
WMUB was a valuable service in a community that didn’t have a daily newspaper. It employed student interns who wanted to get experience in broadcast media. (I occasionally tune in to the voice of one of those former interns from the 1990s reading the news out here on Wyoming Public Radio.) While community members may attend a college game or two every season, they surely tuned into WMUB in much greater numbers. On bad weather days, it’s where we all went to pray for news of a snow day. There is clearly a much better argument that WMUB was mission-critical, if the mission of higher education is, you know, education instead of entertainment and craven servility to the NBA and the NFL. WMUB clearly contributed much more to the community than the sports teams. Dump the teams, and keep the radio on.