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COLUMN

IPFW basketball decision lacks foresight

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For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.

Mastodons need to remain at Coliseum for games

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 6:51 am

I wasn't a business major in college, but common sense tells me that if you'd like to succeed at something, take a look at someone doing something well and mimic their practices.

That would be my advice to the IPFW athletic department.

If IPFW would like to enjoy record enrollments and alumni donations, as well as an incredibly successful athletic department, then simply examine what Butler University has done over the past 25 years and follow its decision making.

However, based on a recent IPFW decision, it appears that the Mastodon leadership is going to take the opposite approach and hope that “Plan B” works.

The university recently made the decision to move a majority of its men's basketball games back to its on-campus facility, the 1,875-seat Gates Sports Center, from the Coliseum across the street.

So instead of enhancing the men's basketball program and using it to grow the university (and subsequently its entire athletic department) as a whole, those leaders feel limiting the scope of the program – in order to save money - would be the prudent path to follow.

I understand the arguments made in defense of the move. And I don't doubt that on the balance sheets over the next few years those decisions will look good to an accountant.

Budgets are tight at IPFW and this move will provide a better game-day environment in the near future, IPFW will save rent money by playing games on campus, and perhaps student attendance will increase by a couple hundred per game.

So what?

You don't make decisions with long-term ramifications in order to sell a few hundred bags of popcorn next February.

The problem with this decision is that it is just one in a series of poor decisions that are hindering the entire university from reaching its potential.

There isn't a non-BCS athletic program in the country that doesn't envy what Butler has evolved into due to the foresight of its leaders. But it isn't just the Bulldogs that have figured out that actual commitment can lead to actual success.

I don't understand why the University of Fort Wayne (which is what the school's name needs to be changed to immediately) isn't eventually capable of being on par with VCU.

What's the difference between Florida Gulf Coast and Fort Wayne? Besides better weather?

Ohio University supposedly has some systematic advantage to making NCAA Tournaments that the Mastodons will never enjoy? Sorry, not buying that argument either.

The common denominator among the many schools that have utilized athletics to alter their universities' entire existence is commitment.

IPFW isn't committed to being great. And this latest decision substantiates that.

A quarter century ago, Butler President Dr. Geoffrey Bannister didn't sit down and ponder 'How can we get 200 more students to a game?' He sat down and thought 'How can this university meet its potential – and then some?'

If the University of Fort Wayne (I'm sticking with that for the remainder of this column) wants to reach its potential, then it needs to do the following:

• Make the men's basketball program the marquee program of the university

- No one's application or alumni donation to a university is ever influenced by any athletic squad other than football and men's basketball, anywhere. Period. That point isn't even debatable.

• As mentioned above, change the name of the institution

- Only a handful (UCLA, USC, UNLV, UTEP, and BYU) have ever pulled off the acronym-for-a-name successfully.

• Gain admission into the Horizon League

- It'll save travel money and also give the men's basketball program respect. The Summit League is a very good league, but no one in Indiana realizes that. People here still believe the MAC is good in basketball. And I don't want to hear excuses as to why it can't be done. Butler went from the Horizon League to the Big East in 12 months.

• Give the men's basketball program a competitive budget

- Mastodon coaches and student-athletes have been asked to overachieve, while having their hands tied for too long. If you expect success, you have to pay for success.

• And lastly, play the games in a real college arena (the Coliseum)

- The Gates Sports Center is a nice practice facility for a legitimate NCAA Division I men's basketball program. And that's it.

It has been proven over and over what belief and commitment to men's basketball can do for an institution, and the Mastodons taking a step backwards in that process isn't the path to growth.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Tom Davis at tdavis@news-sentinel.com.