Student Organization, CUTV, Harmed By Athletic Department Faulty Ideals

In Kelly Lehmann Johnson’s article (“Seize The Day Every Day at Colgate”, Oct. 28), the Class of ’94 graduate celebrated one of Colgate University’s greatest values: commitment to students through diverse and excellent academics, off-campus programs, and extracurricular activities. The Athletic Department’s recent decision to halt live broadcasts by Colgate University Television of men’s ice hockey undermines this devotion to the comprehensive enlightenment of students. The publicly disseminated reason for the Athletic Department’s decision was its belief that live broadcasts suppressed student attendance at games. Such rationale is flawed. First, there is no statistical support for it. This assumption is premised solely on fond, if not selective, memories of fans in the stands. Questionable anecdotal information should not be the basis for the elimination of a program directly benefiting students. Second, there is no logical reason to believe that live CUTV broadcasts are the cause of low attendance and that eliminating such broadcasts will have the effect of increasing student presence at games. Restricting broadcast access to one’s team only creates animosity or, even worse, apathy, and thereby discourages a potentially interested audience. One need only look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ refusal to televise its home games and its ever-dwindling attendance to find proof of this. Third, the proffered justification cannot be reconciled with other decisions made by the Athletic Department. The Athletic Department allows live broadcasts of all Colgate home football games, which are also poorly attended by students. The athletic department even recognized CUTV’s potential as a public relations arm of Colgate athletics when it allowed CUTV to broadcast other sports such as women’s hockey and men’s and women’s basketball live, stating that increased exposure for these poorly attended events would be beneficial in increasing student support and school pride. The Athletic Department also has decided to permit live television broadcasts of the Cornell, Clarkson and St. Lawrence hockey games by Time Warner Cable.

Why would the Athletic Department allow live broadcasts of home hockey games by Time Warner Cable and not CUTV? One might assume that permitting the broadcasting of games to a wider community furthers a concerted effort by the Athletic Department to attract as large a following for Colgate hockey as is possible. However, such an assumption is contradicted by the Athletic Department’s contemporaneous decision to eliminate its funding of CUTV webcasts of men’s hockey games as well. Out-of-state fans, alumni and parents alike had regularly accessed these webcasts, which cost a mere $300 per game to produce. Scholarships allowed Colgate to attract players from as far away as British Columbia, and the parents of these athletes watched their children play while taking pride in Colgate’s efforts to reach out to them. Furthermore, CUTV began to provide highlights to the Athletic Department for use on its own website, and had been planning on expanding that effort to further assist Colgate’s recruiting efforts and enhance its overall appearance on the most powerful rising media source in the world, the internet. Clearly, exposure was not at the forefront of the minds of the Athletic Department when it decided to cut off a means by which alumni, parents, and students could take an interactive role in their hockey team.

I believe there is another unstated motivation for pushing increased student attendance and limiting game broadcasts to Time Warner Cable. It is a poorly kept secret that the Athletic Department has had an interest in a new arena or a renovated Starr Rink for years, but believes it must demonstrate a need for increased seating capacity and space in order to obtain the money necessary for such a lofty endeavor. Demonstrating that the hockey program could generate a few dollars in revenue and is marketable on the more commercialized level that Time Warner Cable represents would not hurt the cause either. Thus, the Athletic Department made some appropriate efforts to improve admittedly poor attendance; including fan giveaways, contests, etc. Further steps could be taken, including hosting tailgate parties before games or utilizing the Broad Street Initiative to link hockey games to downtown activities in an effort to draw students from up the hill. However, eliminating live CUTV cable and web based broadcasts of games does little, if anything, to achieve the ultimate objective, and is, in fact, a threat to the Colgate values that motivated Ms. Lehman Johnson to write her article and that prompted me to write this letter. While the Athletic Department may believe it is allowing CUTV to be just as influential in the community and in the lives of the students that produce its programs as it was before by permitting tape-delayed broadcasts of men’s hockey games, the experience will not be the same. CUTV has found that students would rather watch a movie than a replay of a game, the outcome of which is already known. The student audience for CUTV Hockey will be diminished to a great extent. More importantly, desire to be a part of a live broadcast that can be seen both on campus through cable and worldwide on the web both draws and drives the students responsible for producing CUTV Hockey. Eliminating both of these options at a school that offers neither a broadcasting nor a communications major will most likely spell the demise of CUTV Hockey. And CUTV Hockey is responsible for the success of many alumni who are pursuing journalism, broadcasting, and media relations careers at organizations such as College Sports Television and USA Hockey, where I am currently employed. Those responsible for the decision to eliminate live broadcasts of men’s hockey by CUTV have demonstrated a lack of understanding about the importance of internet and television media in enhancing its athletic programs by essentially discouraging CUTV Hockey from expanding and possibly even existing in the future. More importantly, the Athletic Department should be more supportive of all student organizations, and especially those that can increase the exposure and improve the image of Colgate athletics.

Even if unintended, the Athletic Department’s decision conveys the unmistakable message that the gain that an updated facility might bring and the financial reward of a contract with a cable television provider is more valued than those provided by a student organization. By this decision, students are being kept from acquiring unique skills and potentially realizing a dream, as I have. In my opinion, there is no reason why Colgate cannot achieve all of its goals while being true to its core values, and it is a mistake to sacrifice some in the hope that it will hasten the realization of others. As a member of the Class of 2005 and an active participant in efforts to increase the publicity for the men’s hockey team (Maroon News reporter, CUTV broadcaster, U.S. College Hockey Online arena reporter, U.S. College Hockey Magazine contributor, etc.), the success of the Colgate Raiders means a great deal to me. I am, and will continue to be, a regular contributor to the Silver Puck Club, which directly supports the men’s hockey team. I implore all involved to revisit this matter and find a way that CUTV Hockey can be allowed to return to live broadcasting and webcasting in the very near future.

Alex Clark ’05