Staff Editorial: As GW aims for NCAA power player status, students stand to benefit

To those of us on this campus for whom the wins and losses of the Colonials are our only encounters with college sports, the many changes on the horizon for the National Collegiate Athletic Association may not be on our radar.

From a rumored “Coalition to Save College Sports” to anti-trust lawsuits to debates about pay-to-play regulations, the NCAA is poised for big changes.

And who should be a central player in these conversations but GW. An expansion of the University’s areas of focus – previously, to science and engineering, recently, to the arts and now, surprisingly, to college sports on the national level – is a choice that will benefit future generations of students. And by inserting itself into the conversation, GW is paving the way for lesser-known schools in the sports world to do the same.

It might come as a surprise to many that GW – not a big sports school in the traditional sense – is fancying itself a player in the future of the NCAA. The University isn’t known for huge game-day tailgates or alumni sports legends.

For starters, the University is taking advantage of its geographic location: The NCAA held its annual conference last month at National Harbor, Md., an event that was immediately followed by Atlantic 10 meetings on campus. GW is the only A-10 school located in downtown D.C. – also near the site of the NCAA’s political lobbying efforts.

But the athletic department isn’t just resting on GW’s location, a common pitfall of our D.C.-centric marketing campaigns. Athletic director Patrick Nero is also ensuring that GW is a part of the national conversations about college sports, after already forging relationships with the White House on issues like sexual assault.

More broadly, it makes sense that GW is central to these conversations because our school is inherently political – need we refer you to the “most politically active campus” title again? That inclination has also extended to the athletic department, which has started programs to encourage diversity in sports and prevent sexual violence.

Now, the University certainly doesn’t have an athletic program that’s representative of the average college athletic department. Instead of a football team, GW’s strength lies in its large number of varsity programs in non-revenue sports, so some might wonder why it deserves a big voice in conversations about regulating college sports.

For a number of reasons, GW isn’t likely to develop a football program anytime soon and some might argue it shouldn’t.

But advocacy work is one way the University can make a name for itself on the national stage without pouring money into a new program. And we enjoy the benefits of GW’s presence on that stage, including a boost to school spirit, the potential for more fundraising opportunities and the prestige that comes with having ESPN on campus for game day.

Admittedly, this focus won’t benefit current students as much – the fruits of fundraising and an increase in prestige can take some years to see. But that’s no reason not to make it a focus.

Beyond the benefits on this campus alone, GW is also serving as a model for other schools in the NCAA that might be important to conversations about the future of college sports but aren’t poised to participate in them in the same way as, say, Duke University or the University of Southern California.

Nero and the athletic department are carving out a space for schools that are stronger in Olympic sports but perhaps aren’t household names or perennial national championship contenders. These institutions have expertise in supporting those sports, and that knowledge is valuable.

The future of the NCAA is unclear, but GW’s efforts in helping shape it bodes well for more on campus than just our sports teams.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Robin Jones Kerr and contributing opinions editor Sarah Blugis, based on discussions with managing director Justin Peligri, design editor Sophie McTear, copy editor Rachel Smilan-Goldstein, senior designer Anna McGarrigle and design assistant Samantha LaFrance.

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