LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Successful athletics program will boost fundraising and enrollment



Central Michigan University's recent budget surprise shocked our university. Deficits are not fun and CMU’s leadership needs to be held accountable. Our community should not let this crisis pass without learning how to get better from it so that we inoculate our university from these situations in the future.

It is only natural for the academic community to zero in on areas to cut that pose no immediate threat to the faculty. Professor David Jesuit underscores the rampant escalations in Athletics spending at CMU in his opinion piece published by Central Michigan Life on April 26. These increases might actually be less than at typical Division I schools. They reflect conditions at the top of the NCAA hierarchy- the Power 5 conferences all became “owners” of their own highly profitable TV networks over the past decade. Big Ten schools will each received about $40M this year from the BTN. These are monies we do not see at CMU, yet we compete on a similar level.

Athletics play an extremely important role in our college communities. As a university’s “front porch” its commitment to academic integrity and its focus on the primacy of the university’s academic experience are communicated through its athletes. Diversity, leadership development, branding, spirit, pride, loyalty, memories, recruitment and alumni engagement are some of the virtues of an athletics program. These forces also drive successful fundraising and enrollment. I urge our faculty to appreciate that if athletics fail to exist there is soon a need for less faculty. Thus, it seems that the academic community, the students and the alumni all have a stake in the success of our athletics programs.

Our focus needs to be on growing CMU's revenue. Mediocrity needs to be rooted out. The CMU I am committed to does not merely “hold ground.” It has a vision. A sense of purpose. It is a vibrant and dynamic place pursuing excellence in each of its endeavors. It is a place of growth, both in the development of its students and faculty and in the number of lives it reaches.

CMU needs to be dynamic at raising the necessary capital to thrive. It needs to embrace new ideas to address past weaknesses like Advancement. Our approach under President George Ross has been defensive and combative when new fundraising energies and ideas have surfaced. He had failed us until this week when he hired our new Athletic Director, Mike Alford, a proven fundraising talent.

A recent quote by Sheryl Sandberg, former Facebook CEO, illustrates the attitude we are missing: “The people who have taught me the most in my career are the ones who pointed out what I didn’t see.” A healthy “paranoia” best describes the attitude we need. Our weakness at fundraising has left us vulnerable. It prevents us from being strategic. We need resources to pursue excellence in all that we do. Prosperity is a conscious choice. Vice President of Advancement Bob Martin can help change this.

Imagine the advantage CMU would enjoy recruiting students, faculty and others if it had had the foresight to articulate and execute a vision creating an urgency around financial strength and independence when other schools are struggling? We have had a blind spot and lag our peer MAC schools by more than a decade.

Let’s get busy and fix it.

Todd Anson, 1977 alumnus