Athletics must learn to walk

President John La Tourette is pushing NIU’s fledgling athletic program to learn how to crawl and it’s the best thing since milk in a bottle for the rest of us.

La Tourette has worked out a five-year schedule for weaning the longtime dependent NIU athletic program off of state- appropriated funds. This means that all funding for athletic programs will have to be generated through ticket sales, donations, tuition and student fees by 1998.

The plan will cut athletics’ present budget by 40 percent, forcing the department to make up the loss in revenues in other ways. La Tourette’s plan will free up approximately $2.3 million from the athletic department for other uses in NIU’s academic programs.

Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell is correct in his opinion that the cut does not spell doom for his department. La Tourette’s plan will, or rather should, force the athletic department to streamline its budget. It’s time that the athletic department started to turn a profit for NIU instead of being a dependency.

This is not a time for the department to panic. O’Dell needs to continue to work with La Tourette and Vice President of Finance and Planning Eddie Williams to make the athletic budget cost efficient.

Athletics needs to both cut monetary waste and bring in more outside money, but the double-barrel shotgun of financial cutting should not be brought to bear on smaller athletic programs such as women’s soccer, golf or the swimming program.

Now more than ever, NIU needs an athletic department which will help the university through recognition and its own financial funding instead of being a constant hindrance.

After all, NIU’s mission is education not athletics.