The price tag of transforming Western Carolina University’s losing football team into a winner — or anything less than a total embarrassment to Catamount fans — keeps rising, leaving students, alumni, faculty and staff at odds about whether the cost is just too high.
So how much is too much?
WCU recently paid $300,000 to buy out the latest head football coach deemed a loser. Dennis Wagner is the third straight coach WCU has bought out since 2001. And now, WCU wants to kick more than $1 million into the salaries of a new athletic director and for a replacement football coach.
Punt already, some students said this week: It’s just not worth it, particularly when students are facing a just announced, almost certain to be implemented $399-a-year increase in annual tuition and fees.
Other students, however, are calling for a push toward the end zone: a winning football team, they argued, is an integral part of a student’s university experience.
Chancellor David Belcher makes that argument, too.
“I feel that a successful athletics program is critical to a university,” he said in an email interview with The Smoky Mountain News. “And football, while just one part of an overall athletics program, is an important and visible component. In our region, it is fair to say that football is the most visible sport.”