Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
Students have frequently criticized the University of Maryland's $155 million investment in Cole Field House as a misuse of university money. I have heard a number of class presentations argue the money could be better spent on mental health care, classrooms, student facilities and other important causes. And they do have a point. The university currently spends less than that amount on the scholarships and fellowships offered to the entire school. Granted, much of the $155 million is from gifts and grants, but the university and state still invested significant funds in the project.
However, just because the university spent an exorbitant amount on a new practice facility does not decrease the importance of that facility. Sports are an integral component of forming collective identities. Athletic competition has been around since the beginning of recorded history, and while its mediums change, its message of pride, drive and unity has remained constant. Sports have long been expressions of collective pride, a feeling this university is trying to cultivate.
Terp pride is an important reason many potential students come to Maryland in the first place and become so invested once they get here. By encouraging alumni donations, these investments often pay off in the long run. As sports help construct our identities, it is only natural to make investments in our athletic success.
This is not only true on a local scale but a national one as well. Historically, national sports teams have drawn incredible amounts of attention, and national athletes often hold significant influence. I spent this past summer in the Philippines, and I vividly remember the entire country stopping in the middle of the day to watch Manny Pacquiao fight Jeff Horn. Such athletes, considered national heroes, advertise the latest fashion, support political candidates, and, in one case, even ended a civil war.
Didier Drogba is a soccer player and the most popular man in the Ivory Coast. In 2005, while his country was enduring a bloody civil war, Drogba led his team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup where he took the microphone and asked everyone in his country to lay down their arms. The war ended less than a week later.
Sports are powerful, and their role in the creation of a collective identity looms large, so it is no waste for this university to invest in its teams' success. While moderation in spending is necessary, the reality is that we all benefit from our football team's success. Whether we go to all the games or don't know anything about football, our teams help inform our collective identity as Maryland Terrapins.
As this university looks to improve itself, attracting more applicants, creating a positive college experience and facilitating college pride all play a critical role. Therefore, I encourage our student body to support our athletic endeavors, from basketball to quidditch, and make this university a prouder, more spirited and better place.
Moshe Klein is a junior economics and government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.