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Play Ball
Sports fans support BCC, and so can academics fans

Barton Community College sports fans are making major contributions so that AstroTurf can be added to the baseball and softball fields, along with other improvements. After the BCC Board of Trustees approved the $763,500 contract this week, nearly 6,000 people saw the Great Bend Tribune’s report on our Facebook page. Thousands more saw the actual newspaper, but it is interesting to track the reader engagement via social media.

Eighty-one people clicked the thumbs-up “like” button; three more clicked that they “loved” the news and three more clicked that it made them “angry.”

Anytime schools spend money on athletic programs there are those who question why public money is spent at all. Schools should focus on academics, they reason.

However, Barton’s Vice President of Administration Mark Dean said private donors are paying half of the cost, more than $381,000. Apparently, someone thought it was worth the money. In contrast, the BCC Foundation’s biggest fundrasier for academic scholarships and enhancements raised over $40,000 this year.

We don’t have the details of how Barton’s athletics department raised the money for artificial turf. We do know that people donate their money for causes that are important to them. An endowed fund with the Golden Belt Community Foundation recently helped Great Bend USD 428 and BCC purchase new racing blocks for the Barton swimming pool. The cost came to about $18,600, and the endowed fund picked up about two-thirds of that.

Other people donate to purely academic concerns. Examples include the Cohen Center for Kansas History, located in the BCC Learning Resource Center (library), added with a gift from the Barton P. and Dr. Mary Davidson Cohen of Leawood, or the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation’s $327,405 grant to the USD 428 Education Foundation in 2015.

We also know that extracurricular activities and organized sports make important contributions to a well-rounded education. At the college level, sports programs also contribute to recruiting efforts and in some cases are the reason a student chooses to continue his or her education. Athletic scholarships sometimes are the thing that makes it possible to go to college at all.

From an economic standpoint, modern sports facilities are needed to bring in tournaments.

People who disagree with how the college spends its money are free to run for a position on the board of trustees or to encourage like-minded representatives to run. The college could certainly trim its budget if it got rid of athletic programs altogether, shut down its swimming pool and, for good measure, found a way to divest itself of the Camp Alderich Conference Center, which serves the community but not academics. It could stop worrying about amenities such as the Student Union or anything whatsoever that does not have a textbook (or the modern equivalent) attached to it. But no one would benefit from such a move — academically or otherwise.

Susan Thacker