If you have ever heard of the University of Michigan’s football stadium, The Big House, then you will know that Michigan boasts not just one of the nation’s leading athletic programs, but many other strong assets, such as the prestigious Ross School of Business. The Michigan Wolverines football team currently has the highest winning percentage in college football history. Unsurprisingly, the team has a massive, loyal fan base. School spirit is evidenced by the sight of multitudes of blue and yellow.
Two hundred and fifty miles to the west lies the University of Chicago. It is well known for its lethargic spirit, thanks in part to Robert Hutchins, president of the university from 1929-45. Before Hutchins’ time, UC was the founding member of the Big Ten Conference and won seven football conference championships in only 25 years. But when Robert Hutchins came, he acted on his dangerous, controversial ideas that such activities are a distraction to studying and therefore abruptly ended the football program. Although the program returned in the ’60s, it was never the same.
Nowadays, UC has been degraded to Division III. It is a member of the University Athletic Association (as is UR), easily the toughest conference of Division III. More importantly, UC lost its fan base.
The difference is crystal clear. While UC and Michigan both have very competitive academic programs, Michigan has far more school spirit and a massive loyal fan base. School spirit, especially for athletics, is the most overlooked part of college. It is absolutely imperative to college life and should play a larger role in ranking schools.
So, what can we learn from university athletics? When I went to UR sports games, I noticed that students barely populate the stadium; I swear there’s more people in Rush Rhees Library on one Saturday night than at all the home field hockey games in a season. School spirit and athletic programs are essential to the overall health of the University; they aren’t merely a byproduct.
They, along with the University, foster a mutual relationship. They also play a large role in building up UR’s reputation. It can be acquired through winning championships and attracting large crowds at games. Once the reputation is attained, more students will want to apply, in turn making the University more competitive and selective. Thus, the student body will become not only smarter but more spirited, enterprising, innovative and active. Such vigorous spirit will lead students not only to attend more games and cheer on their teams, but to engage in school activities and promote general welfare of the University and make it ever better. Meliora!
Therefore, our University needs to invest more in its athletic programs by expanding athletic facilities, aggressively recruiting student-athletes and improving its much-needed football program. Adding men’s lacrosse and ice hockey teams wouldn’t hurt either.
No matter how large the community is, school spirit can help bind the University together and unite a large group of people into the Yellowjackets family. Calling on all UR students, I encourage you to come to sporting events and cheer on your teams!
Ning is a member of the class of 2015.