The Ohio State football team has always attracted a lot of attention, sometimes at the expense of academics and research, but some professors said they don’t mind.
David Ewoldsen, a professor of communication and assistant professor of psychology, said he doesn’t have a problem with the attention the Department of Athletics receives.
“In general, it’s the reality,” he said. “They’re going to get the attention, and that’s fine.”
Ewoldsen, who came to OSU from a position at University of Alabama, said a successful football team means more than a winning record for the institution.
“When the (Alabama) football team won, the university got more money,” he said. “The university wanted the football team to do well, because it means more money.”
Ewoldsen said he recognizes that much of that money goes back into the athletic program, which at OSU is run independently of the university.
While the Buckeyes generate money for OSU, large amounts are kept within athletics.
In 2011, OSU’s athletics department spent a median of about $456,000 per scholarship football player. That same year, the university spent a median of nearly $21,000 per full-time equivalent student, according to the Athletic & Academic Spending Database for NCAA Division I, from the Knight Commission On Intercollegiate Athletics.
Those data also show that football spending per scholarship player since 2008 has nearly doubled, from roughly $228,000, as academic spending per FTE student rose about 9 percent, from about $19,000, in the same period.
Ewoldsen said while OSU researchers have accomplished a lot, their feats are less well-known.
“In a lot of departments, we’re top-notch researchers and no one knows that,” he said.
He added that he thinks professors’ research is promoted at OSU, though. Ewoldsen co-authored a study on cooperative video gaming and the project received international attention.
“The press release department developed press releases on that and it got picked up around the world, we got interviewed from Australia about that research,” he said.
David Brakke, a history professor, said he’d like the attention on the football team to lead to interest in other aspects of the university.
“You hope that people who get interested in Ohio State because of the football team will learn more about the university and find out all the other great things that we’re doing with research and teaching,” he said.
Brakke, who said he’s a moderate fan of the football team, said the school can’t control what others deem important.
“If the media is more interested in certain things than other things, that’s not necessarily Ohio State’s fault,” he said. “That maybe says more about the culture that we’re a part of.”
Brakke added that, while he wants the university to be known for more than just football, the recent success of the Buckeyes, which won 24 consecutive games before losing against Michigan State Saturday, makes their story appealing.
“It makes sense that, right now, that’s the thing that would be most in the news and of most interest to people at Ohio State,” he said.