When University of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley decided to start a women's lacrosse program, he spent $15 million on a complex just for that one team—before they even played a single game. Florida's spending on non-revenue-producing sports more than doubled over the past decade, to a current budget of $94.5 million per year. Gator spending on swimming, track and women's gymnastics grew at an even quicker pace. The reason is simple: Foley is dedicated to winning championships in all 21 sports.
"Jeremy and everyone here truly believe that every athlete who steps onto this campus should be afforded the same resources, the same opportunities and same experiences as Tim Tebow," says Amanda O'Leary, Florida lacrosse coach.
Other schools have followed Florida's lead. According to the NCAA, Division I schools have increased their spending on athletics across the board by 11 percent. The University of Tennessee, for example, boasts new facilities, including an aquatic center, a softball stadium and a driving range for the golf team.
The National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors gives an annual award called the "Director's Cup," honoring the school with the most success across all sports. The award offers an additional incentive for schools to invest in multiple sports. For the 2009-10 season, Stanford, with 35 athletic programs, nabbed the number one spot, followed by Florida, Virginia and UCLA.
Schools like Florida, Tennessee and Stanford have realized that the top revenue-producing sports are no longer sufficient to attract a broad range of today's best athletes. This is great news for high school students who want to play in college, but who may not be a part of a high-profile team. Even if your sport is not considered "big time," your hard work and dedication can still pay off, allowing you to compete at the collegiate level. Just ask the athletes of Florida's women's lacrosse team.
Source: New York Times Sports
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