How Important are Non-Revenue Sports?
Last night the Kansas Jayhawks women's basketball team broke a losing streak against in state rival Kansas State and continued an upward trajectory for the program that seemed to start after the arrival of current Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger. This comes on the heels of the most successful women's volleyball season in recent memory and for the first time in a long time Kansas Jayhawk fans are taking note of and supporting the non-revenue sports.
Sure there were those out there that supported these programs on a more passive level when there might have been a hint of success, and perhaps there were even a few die hard fans paying attention despite a lack of success for year, but there were sold out volleyball games this Fall and depending on what Bonnie Hendrickson can do there could be equal enthusiasm surrounding the basketball team this Spring.
It brings up the question of the big two vs. all the rest in an athletic department. Football drives the ship at most Universities and it's a huge asset at Kansas as well if Charlie Weis can shift the momentum back in a positive direction. Basketball is a huge revenue generator for the Kansas athletic department and for most Universities it represents the only other revenue generating sport. I don't think you'd find many that would argue superiority in the non-revenue department is more important, but is it relevant?
Let's put basketball and football on their own as the most important to a school in terms of pride, revenue and building a foundation for success. After that where do you see the non-revenue sports fitting in? Does it provide a sense of pride to see the women's basketball team and volleyball team doing well? Yes obviously it's nice to see them beat Kansas State and everyone loves a winner, but does it actually register if these teams are doing well? Do you care if they are doing poorly?
There have been years in the not to recent past where Kansas has controlled both football and basketball in the state of Kansas but Kansas State has dominated the 10+ non revenue sports that make up the Sunflower Showdown. The same could be said for the now non-existent border war. I recall as a Kansas fan we didn't seem to care all that much, but was that a product of the leadership in place or just the reality with non-revenue generating sports? I've heard Texas fans talk about a dip in their baseball team and being upset with the lack of success in that sport, would it matter to a Jayhawk fan?
It's an interesting question in light of the way the two programs previously mentioned have performed this year. Bonnie Hendrickson and Ray Bechard have both brought their programs to the highest level since they've been coaching at Kansas and Jayhawk fans have noticed. It's just a question that jumped into my head recently as I've noticed more press and more publicity for these two programs and they have quickly ignited a small fire under the Jayhawk fanbase and provided a sense of pride in an area that is often ignored.