Spelman ends sports program to devote funds to overall campus fitness. What do you think?

We have frequently discussed whether k-12 schools should maintain competitive sports programs, citing other countries where athletic teams are not fielded by schools but by community groups. The costs of school-based sports programs have become a factor now when every penny counts.

But we have not looked at college sports.  The AJC reports that Spelman, a noted black women’s college in Atlanta, announced it would use the nearly $1 million that had been dedicated to its intercollegiate sports program, serving only 4 percent of students, for a campus-wide health and fitness program benefiting all 2,100

According to AJC.com:

“When I was looking at the decision, it wasn’t being driven by the cost as much as the benefit. With $1 million, 80 student-athletes are benefiting,” said Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman’s president. “Or should we invest in a wellness program that would touch every student’s life?”

Spelman’s decision won’t influence the Georgias and Ohio States of the world — where sports have become inextricable from the identity of the university. But it could attract notice at a broader band of colleges struggling with budget cuts and agonizing over whether the cost of college athletics is compatible with their missions.

For Tatum, there is also an element of social responsibility. She said a campus analysis found that almost one out of every two students has high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or is obese.

“I have been to funerals of young alums who were not taking care of themselves, and I believe we can change that pattern not only for them but for the broader community,” Tatum said.

The economics of college athletics vary widely from big-time programs to Division III schools where intercollegiate athletics are little more than another extracurricular activity. At most places, they lose money for the college and typically, schools say that’s fine. They argue there’s educational value in athletics, and they run all sorts of programs to benefit students that aren’t expected to pay for themselves, from jazz bands to the English department. It’s part of the college experience.

But athletics are a part of the experience for only the tiny percentage of students who participate directly. According to the NCAA, there are about 400,000 student-athletes nationwide, but there are 18.6 million undergraduates.

The median Division 1 athletic program, including those without football, is losing about $10 million annually, according to NCAA figures.

At programs like Spelman, the losses are less severe but expenses are rising rapidly. For Division III schools with football programs, expenses from athletics have nearly doubled since 2004 to $2.9 million for the median school. At schools without football, such as Spelman, costs have more than doubled to about $1.4 million annually.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

36 comments Add your comment


November 2nd, 2012
9:26 am

Easy decision when the program doesn’t generate any significant revenue.


November 2nd, 2012
9:28 am

If it were up to me, all colleges and universities would have no competitive sports programs and would concentrate on learning, which is why they exist in the first place.

College football and basketball could be re-structured to mirror minor league baseball teams. This would stop colleges from presenting the sorry specticle of semi-illiterate young men majoring in football and basketball.

mystery poster

November 2nd, 2012
9:59 am

$1M divided by 80 is 12,500 per student athlete. That’s a heckuva lot of money. I think it was a sound decision.

Anotther comment

November 2nd, 2012
10:53 am

The really sad thing is that to apply for even academic scholarships now s5


November 2nd, 2012
11:05 am

Not fair. This gives Spelman students a super advantgage in the work place over those attending sports centered schools. Academics trumps sports every time to learn something useful.

Private Citizen

November 2nd, 2012
11:19 am

Sounds great. Full support. This is the kind of decision making that makes the good things of a cosmopolitan environment. -Would be nice if someone geared up and did something about the coming shortage of doctors.

On a different note, recently read something about Texas A&M going to spend $425 million to rebuild their football stadium. http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/2012/kyle-field-renovation/

Being from the city, ‘never really latched with the football-loco culture thing.

I think the Spelman community should have outdoor tai-chi group at different times throughout the day, open to the public. Low cost, high return.

Anotther comment

November 2nd, 2012
11:30 am

The really scary thing now is that for academic scholarships that are open to students of all races (not not just minorities). Require not only highly academics, 3.5 GPA ; top 5 % of class rank, 2000 +SAT or 30 + ACT , 4 + years of Participation and lettering in at least one, preferrably two varsity sports. Leadership as demonstrated through volunteerism, student government, athletics or work experience.

My daughter has a chronic medical condition, she meets all of these, except is a little short on the SAT/ACT, but well over the Ga averages. The Duke Grad. Doctor said to her when do you sleep. No wonder you are tired.

Now if she was black or Hispanic or we had a tribal #, she would easily be a Gates Scholar or eligible for many more race based scholarships.

What has happened? I had a full academic scholarship to graduate school based on My grades, that I was the President of Tau Beta Pi, an Engineering Honor Society, not athletic participation.

My younger, ever smarter child won’t stand a chance at academic scholarship, since she is in Honor Chorus.


November 2nd, 2012
12:56 pm

Spelman had sports teams? Who knew?

Seriously, it sounds as though they made the correct decision given the high costs involved.

I also disagreed when Ga State started up their football program a few years ago, but they never asked me. As a general rule, I have.been disgusted by the shenanigans of most of the big time sports programs in recent years. Wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they shut them all down

Warrior Woman

November 2nd, 2012
3:47 pm

Given that Spelman wasn’t competitive in sports this was a no-brainer. It won’t really make a difference, except to those students that used to have athletic scholarships.

Warrior Woman

November 2nd, 2012
3:49 pm

And this statement from the AJC article is patently false: “But athletics are a part of the experience for only the tiny percentage of students who participate directly.”


November 2nd, 2012
6:03 pm

Small schools all over are adding football. They believe it increases enrollment and improves the connection between the school and alumni. Doesn’t mean they are right, but a lot do believe that.

But the small private schools and commuter schools do need to question the value. With 1,000 students or 2 or 3,000 full time students, does it make sense to do something where a substantial portion of your students are there for athletic scholarships? For Spelman this probably makes a lot of sense.

Sk8ing Momma

November 2nd, 2012
7:19 pm

Kudos for a bold and progressive decision!


November 2nd, 2012
7:25 pm

Spelman College is a Division III school. That means NONE of the students go to Spelman on athletic scholarships. They do sports because they want to be involved. These ladies can now focus their energies by taking the different fitness programs that are going to be offered in their place. I am sure that other small Division III schools will probably soon follow. I also think that this is a great idea and makes the most sense. Spend the money on all students instead of a small amount and everyone benefits.

Doris M

November 2nd, 2012
8:12 pm

What a great decision. I support it. Health and wellness serve the student body to a greater extent than does a sports team. Many other schools should follow this example. Well done!


November 2nd, 2012
9:16 pm

Brilliant decision. The Ladies leading the way yet again.


November 2nd, 2012
9:53 pm

It’s a private college so they can do whatever they want.

Or they could follow the lead of the messiah and invest in green energy companies. With the ROI, they’d have enough to fund both athletic programs AND “general fitness” programs, right–because these are sound business ideas–right??


November 2nd, 2012
10:56 pm

I am very concerned when I am on campus and can visibly see the level of obesity. These are highly intelligent young women and they don’t seem to understand the basic tenets of what a healthy lifestyle consist of. Good balanced diets with lots of fruits and veggies. Black women have to learn the value of exercise and meditation. We have to teach our young black women how to live balanced lives that are not filled with never ending stress. Stress is fought with exercise and rest. I am very excited to see Spelman College invest in a wellness program for the young women at this prestigious school.

The Ghost of Ray Goff

November 2nd, 2012
11:54 pm

Without men’s sports to pay the bills there is no real way to support women’s athletics.

I also wonder why all these historically black colleges in Atlanta don’t merge together since they all appear to be having money issues. Of course it could be because the administrators want to continue receiving their inflated paychecks. The reality is these places are the remnant of a different time and should probably just be allowed to die away.


November 3rd, 2012
1:26 am

I couldn’t care less. Why haven’t we been bludgeoned with even more FAMU hazing news lately, btw? Did someone at the AJC FINALLY figure out nobody in ATL gives a rat’s ass about it?


November 3rd, 2012
1:33 am

Emory '97

November 3rd, 2012
5:01 am

To the poster named @Another Comment (11:30am), you missed the point of the discussion altogether.
Feel your pain, but guess what, if your daughter really is as well rounded as you claim and is in “honor chorus”, she will find scholarships with no problem
Instead of getting on your soapbox to underhandedly make a snarky comment about minorities, keep it to yourself or find another posting (e.g. rush Limbaugh, Faux News,…)


November 3rd, 2012
6:14 am

It’s a school, one of thousands who are not even academically competitive, that should be completely shut down. A total waste of money for any incoming freshman. It’s a private school, let the market close the doors for good.


November 3rd, 2012
7:01 am

To Hmmmmmmm….

What are you talking about? Spelman is one of the top rated schools of higher learning??? – US News / World Report
and Forbes

Jack W. Bruce

November 3rd, 2012
7:06 am

Love it! While I am a huge college sports fan, we need to address how huge our students are getting all across the U.S. Kudos to this effort to address health and wellness among the student body. Healthy students will be better students and will take their education and improved lifestyle with them into the workplace. Go health.


November 3rd, 2012
7:28 am

Great Decision…

fred sanford

November 3rd, 2012
9:05 am

It’s a women college, its not like the sports programs make any money anyway


November 3rd, 2012
9:15 am

How does the pres. of the school propose to force students into the health and wellness programs? After the programs are made available will students be taxed…..errr, I mean have to pay a penalty for not participating and doing what she wants? How “progressive” to force people to do things they don’t want by coercion. Sports teams are a form of marketing for universities. It’s good, healthy competition on the field or court and when you travel and compete let’s people know your school exists. Many schools get an enrollment bump, sometimes as high as 10% from having winning and competitive sports teams. If you keep students so busy and academically “engaged” when they have down time they don’t want to exercise, they want to rest. You have smart, fat students.


November 3rd, 2012
9:26 am

The decision for Spelman for to implement an overall fitness program for the entire student body is a great decision.When I graduated from University of SC and although there were fitness facilities on campus for general student body and intramual sports, the facilites was very good and adequate when I was in college. Since then there has been major improvements in fitness facilities for general study body since I graduated in 1994 due to sucess of football, baseball and other sports teams but it depends if the school can get its ROI on its investment. Spelman colleges spending or rather losing money on just a few hundred students does not make any financial sense and formost the purpose of any college is to educate its students to be productive citizens and if you are an elite athletic at a major university at Division 1 or 1A you are a student first and athletic second. However for Spelman college to eliminate it sports program and place its focus on producing healthy black women is innovative and great decision.

Spelman Basic Driving 101

November 3rd, 2012
9:43 am

Ever see a car with a “Spelman Alumni” decal or tag on the back demonstrate the use a turn signal while turning or making a lane change?

Neither have I.


November 3rd, 2012
10:33 am

Whine Whine Whine..this devolved quickly into who gets what freebie and handout, and how to be FAIR …typical Democrat thinking.

I was a rare female engineering student and student athlete ..no scholarship, but then we did not generate any real revenue for the school either..the football team generates millions.

Another view

November 3rd, 2012
11:13 am

Would that all small higher education institutions did this; in fact all higher education institutions.

Claudia Stucke

November 3rd, 2012
1:02 pm

In a presentation a few years ago, the University of West Georgia’s president, Beheruz N. Sethna made an interesting point: If you Google Georgia Tech, UGA, and most other schools, most of the screens that pop up have nothing to do with academics–it’s all about football. Educated in India, Dr. Sethna finds this an intriguing and problematic representation of American values. Something to think about.

@ “Anotther Comment,” I beg to differ about the requirements for athletic scholarships. Just ask a teacher who has been pressured by a coach to help get a student athlete’s grade “up to 2.5.” SAT score minimum 2000? Not even close. This is not to say that there are not many fine student athletes at our colleges/universities these days; but I’ve seen too many young men graduate from high school with the expectation that they will be “taken care of” academically, only to flunk out of college. But that’s another story.


November 3rd, 2012
3:59 pm

@ Hmmmmmmm

Spelman is doing great.

Morehouse is doing good.

CAU is doing fine.

It’s Morris Brown that should close down and go away.

@ Ghost…

I don’t see the need for the schools merging. Spelman and Morehouse function well as women’s and men’s colleges respectively and are financially stable. CAU is doing alright as a co-educational and graduate school. Morris Brown however should stop its lingering death and just close down so we can focus on the success of the other three.

GSU Grad

November 5th, 2012
5:50 pm

I applaud Spelman for this forward-thinking and practical decision. Athletics can be wonderful, but they can also be a distraction from college’s true purpose–to get an education that will lead to a viable and long-lasting career. I wish more high schools would consider it. My daughter attends an arts magnet school, and the only “athletics” teams are in the dance department. A few years ago, we even sold spirit wear with the slogan “no football, no baseball, no basketball, no problem.” Our school has a high graduation rate, high SAT scores, high EOCTs, and is widely regarded, in both the metro area and nationwide, as a school that excels in preparing students for college. Last year’s valedictiorian is now at Princeton on a full scholarship, and a Gates Millenium scholar to boot. In contrast, our neighborhood high school, state football champs in their division, is about 100 points lower in SAT scores, and has a negligible arts program. I definitely think there is a connection between a school’s priorities in terms of the sports-to-arts ratio and student achievement. By-the-by, my daughter’s school has a student-led fitness club too, so no snarky remarks about overweight arts kids, please. Kudos to Spelman for once again leading the way.


November 6th, 2012
6:33 pm

Spelman sisters are top knotch. They will do fine without sports. Go for it, gals!


November 9th, 2012
1:38 am