Jacobs: Paying to play keeps competition strong

Jacobs supports the Campus Recreation Department’s decision to charge for intramural sports.

Ibrahim Jacobs

Ibrahim JacobsWhy does it cost $30 for my team to sign up for a co-ed volleyball league that we referee ourselves? Was this Temple’s sequel to the dorm-guest policy in trying to sabotage seemingly simple tasks? The school’s new policy of charging teams for intramural sports represents a change from the original policy in which refundable deposits were given and participation was free. And although this seems counter-intuitive to say, Temple finally got something right.

The intramural policy that existed prior to this year was to charge teams participating in the intramural leagues $40 or $80, depending on the sport. This was issued as a deposit repaid in full as long as the team did not forfeit any games due to lack of attendance.

Steve Young, director of Campus Recreation, said the average cost of sustaining the intramural program is $60,000, all of this coming out of the budget pre-assigned to the department, giving it little flexibility. The high cost is due to providing referees, student workers and equipment to the program.

This year, amid a need to reduce losses for the department, many cuts were made that impacted students’ recreation experience.

“The wheelchair basketball program was dropped, as well as the towel service provided to users of the IBC Student Recreation Center,” Young said. “We also re-examined the hours of recreation buildings were reduced during non-student hours such as breaks.”

Not to discredit the valuable programs that Campus Recreation provides, but maintaining the intramural program at full capacity needed to be a priority, and preventing cuts by inducing a minimal fee is a perfect solution. The department therefore decided to charge teams fees of $30 or $60 depending on the popularity of the sport to register.

While some students may be irritated by the fee when they came into school under the presumption that Temple provided free intramural sports, it is time to take a step back and examine what the fee really entails.

In the 2003-04 school year, the participation in intramural sports was 15,718. Eight years later the figure had grown to 34,935 in 2011-12, an increase of 222 percent, according to Campus Recreation. When teams that participate in intramural sports are made up of as many as 10 to 15 players, the fee is minimal, and shouldn’t deter participation.

“I think the price is a good thing because it keeps people accountable to show up to the games,” junior fitness education major Nick Ruggieri said. “The price could be a negative impact, but if the kids want to play that bad they will pay anyway. Plus if you have 12 kids on a team, paying $5 really isn’t that bad.”

Ruggieri, who referees games and competes in the intramural leagues, said the price could positively impact the competitive aspect of the program.

“The price makes the people that want to play, play, and the kids that are half-heartedly playing not [play] anymore,” Ruggieri said. “There is a lot more competition this year from sports I have seen in the past years so far.”

As someone who hates losing even a coin flip, the competition gained from even a small fee is something that cannot be overlooked. What should stop being overlooked, though, is the efforts the department made to ensure that the price was not only fair, but beneficial.

“We have had a lot of situations in the past where captains have up-fronted the deposit for the teams thinking that they were going to get the money back, only to have their team forfeit games and their deposit revoked,” Young said. “This led to a lot of people upset with their teams because they didn’t work out an agreement beforehand.”

Temple’s new policy should also be applauded for its foresight in finding ways to provide for a free way to play, thus limiting the number of athletes who are unable to play due to a lack of ability to pay the marginal fee. The charge to participate is waived for players who sign up as “free agents,” or players who are randomly assigned to teams.

Trying to manage a program that has had more than 71,000 participants in the last two years is no easy task. And amid budget cuts to many other services provided by Campus Recreation as well as the rest of the university, it is refreshing to see that Temple found a way to amend instead of eliminate or scale back this popular program. The university should apply this policy more often in other areas as it learns to cope with the increasing number of students — and student services — that need to be accommodated.

Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at ibrahim.jacobs@temple.edu or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.

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