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In Sports Commentary

If UWM is serious about having a worthwhile athletic department, its time to break out the bulldozers.

In Sports Commentary

Downer Woods provides adequate space for both a new basketball arena and a football stadium.

In Sports Commentary

Recent renovations to Engelmann Stadium showed that the UWM athletic community can work together. (Photo: UWM Post)

In Sports Commentary

Florida Atlantic's FAU Stadium opened in 2011 at a cost of $62 million. (Photo: Wikipedia)

In Sports Commentary

Florida International's Alfonso Field cost $54 million to completely renovate in 2007. It seats 23,500 for football. (Photo: Wikipedia)

If UWM does continue athletics, vision and boldness must prevail


If you are going to do something, do it right.

Unfortunately, for too many years, UWM has been half-assing it when it comes to their intercollegiate athletics department. Their facilities are inadequate; their leadership has been timid at best and bombastically incompetent at worst.

In other words, if it is possible to screw up a major metropolitan university's athletics department any worse than what the inglorious history of the debacle on Milwaukee's East Side is, I'd like someone to point it out to me.

And since everyone else has had their shot, let me debunk some of the myths that are out there right now.

Myth No. 1: "There is no room to build an athletic village on the UWM campus"

Nonsense. Looking at a satellite picture of the campus, the green space north of the Klotsche Center is just about the perfect size for a legitimate arena and a small stadium. The area is called "Downer Woods" and there is seemingly no information on the parcel of land, other than it is listed as a location on the campus map.

Now, there may be some environmental efforts going on with the area, but that shouldn't be a deterrent. Land on the East Side is tight, and quite frankly, there isn't anywhere else to go. So bulldoze some green and do what you have to do. The tree huggers will be up in arms for a few days, but so what? College students looking to protest everything under the sun will simply move on to something else once one of them gets distracted by some shiny object off in the distance. Trees get ripped out for buildings all the time, especially in cities. Welcome to the real world, Moonbeam.

As to why an athletic village is needed, look at what the situation is currently. The men's basketball team plays downtown and the baseball team plays in Glendale. The women's tennis team, with no facility whatsoever, practice and play at Le Club near Brown Deer Park. For a university the size of UWM to have as few athletic facilities as they do is laughable.

Milwaukee is an urban city; UWM is an urban campus. Forest preserves are not things that are mandatory in such areas.

Myth No. 2: "No school can afford to start up a football program nowadays."

That is just factually incorrect. Since 2000, Florida Atlantic (2001), Florida International (2002), Georgia State (2010), South Alabama (2009), and Texas-San Antonio (2011) have all started fielding Division I football programs. Several others, such as U-Mass, U-Conn, South Florida, Troy, and Texas State have all made the jump to the "Bowl Subdivision" (FBS) from the lower class "Championship Subdivision" (FCS) in recent years as well.

For reference purposes, all of the aforementioned schools have strikingly similar enrollments as UWM, with the exception of Florida International (approximately 17,000 more students than Milwaukee) and South Alabama (about 15,000 fewer students than UWM).

Florida International and Florida Atlantic have constructed their own new football stadiums for their new programs to play in. It can, and has, been done. But the only way anything got accomplished was with bold leadership and a clear vision for what each university wanted to be in terms of intercollegiate athletics.

Myth No. 3: "The Panthers never won anything anyway, so why should it even matter if they flounder and flail in inadequate facilities?"

UWM has the state's lone Division 1-A baseball program. Unfortunately, they also have the worst college ballpark in the country in which to play in at Henry Aaron Field. Not only is the Panthers home field not near campus, it is eclipsed by many high schools in terms of amenities. It is not merely inadequate; it is downright embarrassing. Head Coach Scott Doffek should earn "coach of the year" honors in the Horizon League every season for the miracle he has been able to pull off with the pathetic facility he has to recruit to and win in. Yet somehow he does.

But the same can be said for many of the Panthers athletic programs. By and large, they have been successful, despite their limitations. UWM has more Horizon League all-sports conference titles than any other school all-time. In the past 10 years, the Panthers and Butler have monopolized the McCafferty Trophy, awarded to the conference's all-sports champion, with Milwaukee taking the crown three years in a row from 2004-06.

Somehow, the Panthers win. It is about time someone realizes it.

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Talkbacks

trackermike | May 7, 2012 at 2:06 p.m. (report)

This article pretty much sums up why I am opposed to football prgrams at a mid-major urban university like UWM. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304743704577382292376194220.html?mod=WSJ_hp_mostpop_read I agree that there should be changes with athletics, but let's focus on financially viable sports that will have more impact on student's lives after college and that won't cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the program's lifetime. Mike '07 BBA grad

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Mike_007 | May 3, 2012 at 1:27 p.m. (report)

"So bulldoze some green and do what you have to do. The tree huggers will be up in arms for a few days, but so what? College students looking to protest everything under the sun will simply move on to something else once one of them gets distracted by some shiny object off in the distance. Trees get ripped out for buildings all the time, especially in cities. Welcome to the real world, Moonbeam." Possible they greatest thing ever written on OMC

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pfan | May 2, 2012 at 8:40 p.m. (report)

Thank you Doug Russell for writing the article that Begel couldn't. It is in fact time for strong leadership and bold vision. The football naysayers are the same timid Milwaukee types that can only see what is and not what can be. Time to move past the vision-less. The university has done much with little and it's time to make a serious investment in the future. It will benefit both the school and the city. Time to grow up UWM. As an alum, I'll be happy to donate to the cause.

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PantherU | May 2, 2012 at 8:35 p.m. (report)

If UWM built a football stadium, it would be able to also house Track and Field as well as soccer. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.

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speakthetruth | May 2, 2012 at 5:58 p.m. (report)

If a university in Milwaukee is going to add football, it ought to be Marquette. They have the money to build the stadium, they have the money to fund the program, they belong to conference which plays football, they used to actually have a football team, they have a stronger alumni network than UWM, and they could buy up a few city blocks around campus for what any two homes on the east side would cost...and no one would care, because very few of those homes are owner-occupied. ...and if someone did care, they could build the stadium in the valley. No, I am not a Marquette alum.

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