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Improved athletics deserved, what about academics?

“Pictures are indeed worth a thousand words,” Athletic Director Doug Woolard said in a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday. It seems the picture that the BOT is focusing on is how to effectively use land on campus, but primarily how athletics can use more land.

Woolard’s argument consisted of pictures of facilities of competing schools in the Big East and claims that USF must stay competitive in its new conference by upgrading its facilities. Woolard’s Athletic Land-Use Plan, in its ultimate glory, would consist of upgrades developed in a tightly knit corner of campus deemed the “athletic district.”

In the balance of this land-use plan is the land itself, and on the scale’s sides are education and athletics.

The BOT’s decision to approve the plan for further research into its feasibility, although exciting to some, leaves several other questions unanswered. Moving into the Big East puts the school not only in a different athletic arena, but also an academic arena competing with some of the top research schools in the conference.

The plan gives way to much-needed upgrades and enhancements of the Sun Dome. As Woolard put it, the Sun Dome is a “tired facility that needs renovation.”

The corroding facilities on campus are in need of renovations, and the new athletic facility is providing more of a headache than initially assumed. The new building, constructed in 2003, led to unexpected maintenance costs that resulted in a 58-cent increase in the athletic fees paid by students each semester. The BOT quickly agreed to let students foot the bill for the new facility.

The bright spot in this otherwise avaricious situation is the creation of a Joint Military Science Leadership Center, which will be constructed east of the Physical Education building. The new building seems to be a smoke screen, intended to defer attention to the creation of a building where people could be educated on campus.

As the university continues to grow, expansion and the development of state-of-the-art facilities for students will definitely be required, but obviously the administration’s concern has a very specific focus. “We’ll be looked at as a model for other universities,” said USF president Judy Genshaft at a BOT meeting. The model, it seems, is looking at USF’s athletics program.

According to Woolard, we have a “perennially ranked softball team” that plays and practices in the “poorest facilities in Division-I athletics.”

This is justification that we need upgrades. According to his plan, for the school to stay competitive and attract new recruits requires better facilities, but the true testament to USF is that fact that athletes play and succeed even on “one of the poorest facilities,” not because of where they play but because of who is playing.

Although the successes of other teams have been less impressive, the creation of new athletic facilities should not be the leading cause for students to attend USF; the education that they will receive should.