How much is college athletic glory worth? To lots of boosters, the sky seems to be the limit.
In this Martin Center article, Joe Warta discusses the proposal for a palatial new dorm for North Carolina State’s basketball players. Well, not exclusively for these so-called student athletes. Under NCAA rules, a dorm can’t primarily house athletes, so NC State will have 51 percent of the space for non-athletes. The price tag for the structure comes in at $15 million, meaning that each bed in Case Commons would cost about four times as much as any other student housing at State.
It seems pretty clear that the dormitory is due to NC State’s participation in the ever-escalating arms race to attract top athletic talent in the revenue-producing sports of football and basketball. Luxury accommodations and lavish perks appear to be the minimum required to draw athletes capable of winning championships and bringing in big TV revenue from bowl games and March Madness playoffs.
Does anyone believe that having such luxurious living accommodations will help State players sink more shots or play better defense? Never mind — other basketball powerhouses such as Kansas and Kentucky have already done this and we can’t let other schools get ahead in this veritable arms race.
The funds for this super-dorm are coming from the Wolfpack Club, so the standard argument against wasting taxpayer money doesn’t apply. But there is still a strong argument against this. “Even if concerns about the cost of the dormitory can be dismissed,” Warta writes, “there is perhaps a more important objection: NC State’s athletic department is advocating special treatment for their student-athletes that mocks the school’s most fundamental commitment to academics. It is difficult to see how academics are enhanced by favoring student-athletes with extravagant residence halls.”
This proposal sends the wrong message about the university’s priorities, but it seems destined to go through.