Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dr. Fong Leaves Legacy and A Great Opportunity

On a day when most Butler fans will be depressed and utterly disgusted with a certain recruit's decision to attend a different Indiana school, I find it appropriate to focus on the future and the enormous opportunity that may be facing the Athletic Department. Just last week, Butler University President, Bobby Fong announced he was leaving to become President of Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. While many were surprised and others were saddened, I couldn't help but think that this was good news for Athletics at Butler.

Before I continue, I must stress that the opinion that follows is only that of me, Kyle Murphy, and not that of the Athletic Department, Dawg Pound, or any related Butler organization.

During Butler's magical run through the NCAA Tournament last March, I could not help but feel that Dr. Fong did not fully recognize the team for its unprecedented accomplishments. Don't get me wrong, Fong was on TV and in the newspaper plenty, but each time he seemed to be reserved towards the idea of giving credit where credit was due. Instead, Fong used the publicity and media to stress Butler's academic prowess. In each of his many interviews, Fong repeatedly referenced how Butler's students' first priority was to be a student first. Now, I commend Fong and the University for its focus on academics and cannot imagine it any other way, but for something of this magnitude I would have expected more from our leader on campus. Call it "The Butler Way" if you wish, but this reservation of gratitude might suggest that Dr. Fong did not like the idea of Butler being recognized more for its athletic accomplishments than its academic achievements.

Take a recent example of University funding: Many of you are familiar with the ButlerRising campaign that raised over $154.7 million over a 7 year period. Only 1.8%, or $2.8 million, went to Athletics with $1.7 million of that specifically given by donors. The money alloted was used for the turf, women's locker room and part of the recent bowl updates. The Athletic Department had to add another $1.7 million itself to make the Butler Bowl look like it does today.

In addition, the Horizon League average for scholarships is about 120 per school and Butler only funds 95 for athletic purposes. If that wasn't enough, the Athletic Department also paid for Hinkle roofing repairs, the new baseball hitting facility, the updated sound system in Hinkle, additional tennis courts, an updated softball stadium, the new electronic scorer's table in Hinkle, as well as updated football lockers. It has also been reported that the University did not give one penny more for Brad's new contract. (Thanks to "bernie44" on buhoops for the majority of this information)

I am not suggesting that Butler University should place more emphasis on athletics than it does on academics; I am simply saying that there is plenty of room for improvement. With all of the media attention and millions of dollars worth of free advertisement, a President who will embrace the athletic success along with academics could capitalize on enormous opportunities facing our successful teams.

My somewhat controversial hypothesis is that President Fong is leaving Butler due to the recent success of our basketball program that elevated our athletic profile. I cannot deny that Dr. Fong was a great President for our University and that he will be greatly missed by students and faculty alike, but with his resignation comes an opportunity to fill the open position with someone more willing to support our blossoming athletic programs. It becomes more clear each day that facilities are increasingly important among recruits and without financial backing, those facilities may never be built.

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