Balancing basketball: priorities at Xavier

As I am writing, Xavier and the world around it are in a time of change. The leaves are falling from the trees, Ebola has reached our hemisphere and midterm elections just ended. While all of these are newsworthy, they are not what I would like to address today. Instead, I would like to talk about Xavier basketball.

The basketball season is right around the corner, and, frankly, I could not be more excited. The team is young but talented this year. Fan favorite Matt Stainbrook is returning to the court. Another year of Big East play is sure to have its share of memorable moments. However, this by no means is the only thing that will be happening at Xavier in the coming year. This poses the question: where does Xavier basketball belong in terms of its place in the life of the university?

My friends at other colleges know that my school exists, but only in terms of its excellence on the court. They may suspect it’s a good school because I never stop talking about how enamored I am with Xavier and all it has to offer. However, I wonder if this is true of everyone that has learned about Xavier because of basketball.

Xavier has a basketball team because it is the university’s strongest marketing tool. The team being on national television due to its recent inclusion in the Big East will undoubtedly let kids all over the country experience the “power of X.”

So it all sounds great, right? Undoubtedly, Xavier’s greater presence on the national stage will be a good thing and bring in more students and, in turn, more tuition dollars. However, I do not really see how this helps Xavier as an academic organization.

Xavier is, or at least it should be, an academic institution first and foremost. It would be pretty messed up if Xavier was essentially a giant marketing scheme in which people were brought here by a basketball team that could belong to any other university. It is very important that as Xavier continues to grow, a conscious effort is made to keep the academics as top notch as the basketball. The money that basketball brings to the university should be put back into the university. The basketball team should not be an independent money-making system.

Unfortunately, there is not an easily accessible source to see just how the basketball team figures into the university’s finances. The most recent financial report is by no means accessible to a casual observer. Furthermore, basketball revenue and profits do not seem to be readily available within the report. I do not want to cite figures that have no actual connection to the team and the money it brings in.

costello headshot
Gabe Costello is a sophomore history major from Monee, Ill.

At the very least, there needs to be more transparency from the administration regarding just how the basketball finances work — specifically, where the money from basketball goes. Should we as a student body see the basketball team as an almost independent entity? Is the program self-sufficient? If this is the case, then what real connection does the team have to Xavier other than being an advertisement?

This is lack of transparency is, in my opinion, unacceptable. We as a campus community deserve to know the role that basketball truly plays in the life of university. Xavier was created almost two hundred years ago to provide students with an education and the skills to face the world’s challenges, and we should not lose sight of that purpose.

You will not find a bigger Xavier fan than me. This school feels like a home to me. After graduation, I will remember my classes, my friends and a fair bit of mischief. Sure, basketball will be one of those memories, but I doubt it will be the biggest.

I guess this is what I am hoping for: I want Xavier basketball to be competitive and a part of this great Jesuit institution, but I only want it to be a part. When someone thinks of your college, is “basketball” the first thing you want them to think?