Friday, April 14, 2006

Woodling: Rowers, politics win big


Jennifer Catloth was the first to give me the news. And good news it was for the Kansas University rowing team.

During midweek voting, KU students agreed to add $20 per semester to their fees - $15 of it to build a boathouse and $5 to help fund other women's varsity sports.

For the first time, the KU crew team - elevated to varsity status 11 years ago in response to Title IX guidelines - will have a boathouse instead of having to store its sculls, etc., in a chain-link fence area at Burcham Park.

"Sixty-three percent of the vote went to support it," Catloth, wife of KU rowing coach Rob Catloth, informed me by e-mail. "I guess you were wrong."

In mentioning I was wrong, Catloth was referring to a column I wrote on the subject that appeared in last Friday's Journal-World.

Many people who read that column - particularly those with a KU rowing agenda - thought I was dissing KU varsity rowing, so they filled chat rooms with anti-Woodling venom.

Others who read the column dispassionately realized that I wasn't anti-rowing. My point was that Kansas Athletics Inc., the self-contained corporation that runs the KU athletic department, had no business asking students to pay for a boathouse.

Kansas Athletics Inc. is a multimillion-dollar operation that doesn't have to pay taxes, and yet it had the gall to ask KU students - the lowest rung on its fund ladder - to pay for what it clearly considered a low-priority capital improvement.

Not that Kansas Athletics Inc. ever pays for facilities. Practically every venue used by KU varsity athletes has the name of a donor or donors attached to it.

Why pay for a facility when you can get someone else to foot the bill?

Unable to come up with a sugar daddy for rowing, Kansas Athletics Inc. took the issue to the student body and performed a masterful job of making women's sports sound like a charity. Creating a favorable spin is what it's all about in politics.

More than 60 percent of the students - although only 20 percent of the KU student body voted, according to the University Daily Kansan, KU's student newspaper - were in favor of adding another $20 on top of the $20 they already give to support women's athletics.

But the final tally also meant that nearly 40 percent of those students who bothered to submit ballots were adamant against doubling the amount of money they give to Kansas Athletics Inc.

Or perhaps at least some realized the cost of a boathouse was chump change to an athletic department that operates with the most bloated bureaucracy in the Big 12 Conference.

I'm happy Kansas University's rowers - women who are among the most dedicated and focused on campus - finally will have the boathouse they have wanted and needed for so long.

But I still don't think it's right that the student body has to pay for it.


jayhawktownie 13 years, 10 months ago

i agree with you 100%. As a student i am offended by the ridiculous spin that was applied to this issue. Many of the students seemed to think that all women's sports would be cut if this was not passed...perhaps that is more of an insight into the level of common sense and intelligence in the student body of a large public university with low admissions standards...this is a traveshamockery if i have ever seen one.

thejester8080 13 years, 10 months ago

I saw a breakdown of all of the things that this referendum was to support over the course of the next couple of years, and I felt that most of the items listed warranted some additional support. This referendum is about much more than women's rowing; if I remember correctly, this referendum supports men's club soccer, women's soccer, softball, et al. I voted yes more in favor of those particular sports than I did for the rowing team.

And I don't know anybody who thought that women's sports would be cut off and saw this as anything more than providing additional (and much-needed) support for non-revenue athletics.

scmitchem 13 years, 10 months ago

I agree with you Woodling. That is BS that the students have to pay for this. I am quite sure it is cheaper to pay for a freaking boathouse than it was to build on to Allen Fieldhouse and the new football practice facility.

Jen Catloth 13 years, 10 months ago

If the students thought it was BS then why did they vote for it? It is easy to find donors for sports like bball and football because people care, there is a public interest in it. I don't think the Andersons or the Hoglunds or the Hadls have any intention of ever donating some of their millions to non revenue teams. I don't see anyone putting up a stink about the increase in fees to support the multicultural center why is this such a big deal to offer support to non revenue teams?

fletch 13 years, 10 months ago

rockchalkjayhawk: Well first off, students were able to build the new Multicultural Resource Center on a modest fee ($5). Apparently a boathouse is going to be 3 times bigger (costing $15) or fancier than a multi-resource building and classroom space. Go figure. Me personally, I thought it was greedy and voted against it.

Does me voting against the fee increase mean I hate the women's crew team? Hell no. I've had at least 5 close friends on that team during my stay at KU. I've woken up at 5:30 in the morning to go a couple of them on at regattas.

Does me voting against it mean I hate women or non-rev sports? Again, no. I go support the baseball team and soccer team when I have free time in my schedule. I've actually been to more non-rev sports games in the last year than I have basketball or football games.

But everything the Athletics Department put out towards students was that if you don't pass it you're a sexist scumbag who wants KU to fail in Title IX compliance. I felt rather insulted by that. Athletics has been making a record amount of money in the last couple of years. If they wanted to put more money towards Title IX, they could. But they don't. It's simply not their priority. They know they can con students into paying that burden instead. It's just insulting.

On a personal note, I was a former Student Senator. I sat on the Fee Review Subcommittee a few years ago with Athletics came in looking for more money. They brought all these nice spreadsheets that show where their money comes from and where it goes. The funny thing was there is absolutely no correlation between what student pay in that fee and where the money goes. There is no seperate account at Athletics for that money. There is no accountability. They just get the money, put it in the general fund, and dole it out however they see fit. When we pressed them on this matter, they made no apologies for it. When we joked that we should call it the KU Athletics Corporation Supplimentary Fee, the members of the committee got a rather bluntly written e-mail from a higher member of the KU administration telling us not to. That moment right there was where I officially started to dislike Athletics Corp. Then, the following year they kicked off the only student voting member in favor of their new kabal that controls the organization.

I love student athletes. I love KU sports. I'm just really sick and tired of the Athletics Corporation pushing students around and nobody ever calling them on it.

So thank you, Chuck. I appreciate both your columns. I know you got a lot of flack for them, but that's what you get when you say something bad about the bully in class.

actorman 13 years, 10 months ago

I've always been a big supporter of women's athletics, going back to when Lynette Woodard played. And I wasn't on campus to hear the arguments for both sides. But from what Chuck and Fletch said, I can be reasonably certain I would have voted against it.

As much as I love the athletic success that is starting to happen in many different sports, I am really getting sick and tired of this administration's arrogance and complete lack of respect for the fans, especially those on the lower end of the economic scale. (Gee, sounds like a certain U.S. leader, but I digress.)

jayhawkox 13 years, 10 months ago

I took a more pragmatic approach in why I voted yes to the referendum, I asked and answered one question for myself: if the students don't agree to pay for this boathouse, will the powers that be roll over and build it themselves? To me, the probable answer was a resounding 'no'. Which is why they decide to pawn these projects on the students and then before the referendum even passes are busy spending a half mil on a new fountain by the union. Why? Who knows? The point is, womens' sports are woefully under appreciated on this campus, and maybe spending an extra 20 bucks on them a semester will encourage students to get out and see what their cash is going towards. If we hadn't paid for this, I doubt it would have ever gotten done, or at least not as well.

zepa999 13 years, 10 months ago

"Or perhaps at least some realized the cost of a boathouse was chump change to an athletic department that operates with the most bloated bureaucracy in the Big 12 Conference."

I would like for Mr. Woodling to expand on these comments. If it is the policy of the athletic department NOT to use the budget to build capital improvements, then who will fund it? I agree with the idea of NOT making the students pay for the boathouse. How many semesters will it take to fund the boathouse? Whatever the outcome of this issue, hopefully the atheltic dept. will continue to support the women's rowing team.

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