Is winning everything? (opinion)

In my four seasons with the Tommies I’ve yet to see an article like Sean Thompson wrote last week: an accurate, well-warranted piece of negative coverage of the men’s hockey team. For a school that prides itself on critical thinking, I say it’s about time.

Having said that, there’s more to STU Athletics than meets the eye. And to be clear, this is not in defense of the men’s hockey team but rather to clarify some misconceptions about the school’s athletic program.

Let me begin by saying that winning is everything.

It is what all teams work tirelessly to achieve. And it’s very disappointing to come up short; especially when you truly believe that you have the capacity to compete with the league’s best. But aside from the women’s basketball, volleyball and rugby, most STU teams aren’t winning, or even competing for league championships each season.

What gives?

It’s important to know your strengths and admit to your weaknesses. It’s imperative that, as a school, we’re realistic with our expectations of our teams. In many ways St. Thomas is disadvantaged.

Each year, student enrolment hovers around 2,500 students. That’s the size of some high schools in other parts of the country. At $4,570, St. Thomas has one of the lowest tuition rates in the country and thus operates on a pretty tight budget. Whether we like it or not, only having an undergraduate program has an effect on recruiting. I have shown a handful of prospective players around campus during recruiting trips and almost all of them are looking for programs like business, kinesiology or sciences.

As a result, prospective athletes who are looking for these programs are immediately deterred from St. Thomas.

Their loss, in my opinion.

The point is, it’s outstanding that The Aquinian and other publications provide the extensive coverage of sports that they do. Negative coverage evidently comes with that territory. But it is important to know that unlike other, much larger, universities, STU is not geared to win championships year in and year out.

There’s no doubt it aspires to do so, but there’s a reason the athletics department supports 12 teams each year. Unlike our counterparts down the hill, St. Thomas would never drop five CIS teams to ‘club’ status in order to allocate more money to their men’s hockey program just weeks after they had already won a national championship. I’d be surprised if St. Thomas cut any teams.

The athletics program at STU is designed to provide students with an opportunity to play and compete at a high level, but perhaps not for the purpose of winning league titles. In no way does St. Thomas profit from the athletic program. It is not a money-making machine like some perceive it to be. If it were, student athletes would likely see a reduction of teams, or a greater emphasis on certain ones, and a more intensive marketing and sponsorship program.

But to the benefit of all the athletes at St. Thomas, that’s not their focus. The school prides itself on developing well-rounded citizens who are ready to contribute to society after graduation. And athletics is doing their part by proving the opportunity. By allowing more teams to compete, more students are able to be involved in high-level competition. This is what creates a well-rounded student, not just having a handful of banners in the gym or rink. St. Thomas University is highly regarded because of their ability to provide this to their students, and I commend the athletics department on playing an important role in this.

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