Do basketball incentives foster or hinder school spirit? Hinder

It wasn’t all too long ago that I was an enthusiastic freshman journalism major working on my first news article for the Torch. Alas, I’m now a jaded, grey-bearded English major, and my, how things seem to have changed.

That first news article illuminated to the student population the fact that a decision by Athletics Marketing would require them to pay for tickets to some on-campus sporting events, a departure from the previous year’s policy of free tickets to every game. Today, the University is willing to pay us just to come out to a game.

You can spare us the typical arguments about how this school’s academic fortunes are intrinsically tied to its successes on the basketball court, and how much fan support for the Johnnies means to the school’s ability to support its students and faculty.

That might have been true in the good old days when we really were New York City’s college hoops team. It might be true today at schools like Duke, UCONN and UCLA, where the b-ball brand is still marketable. But it’s not true here, not now.

Any success that St. John’s has today in climbing and clawing its way back into the national (or even regional) consciousness will be wrought in the classroom, and if we’re going to spend money to garner more support anywhere, it should be there.

As it is, the men’s basketball “incentive” program aimed at getting students out to games serves two purposes: it creates the illusion of a student body brimming with school spirit, and it provides a free handout of movie tickets and gift cards to cash strapped students.

I guess neither of those things are inherently bad, but if the school wants to provide its own little economic stimulus package to the undergrads, why not just give us a break on the tuition.

Neither is the basketball team really served by the measure in the long run, as most of the same students who show up for a free meal will just as quickly disappear when the well dries up and the equation reverses itself; paying people to take something off your hands is no way to convince them to come back and buy more tomorrow.

There have been a lot of criticisms about how money is spent at St. John’s in the past, with various programs coming under fire. The bottom line is, only the higher ups who make these decisions really know where the money is coming from, and where else it could possibly go.

It’s also true that the amount spent on these giveaways would probably be only a drop in the bucket if they were to be redirected toward some other, more academically motivated purpose.

Doesn’t matter. The principle here is the key, and there are a myriad of more deserving programs, events and groups on campus that could benefit from that cash.

Even within the Athletics department, the money could surely be better spent, and the benefit would no doubt outweigh the harm in having a few less half-hearted fans in the stands.

So to whomever it is that makes these calls, please, take some time to ponder this question: with money as tight as it is these days, can we really afford to be paying so much to our own students, just to fill a few seats?