OP-ED: March Madness: Colleges Waste TV Opportunities to Gain Public Support

by Rene A. Henry
Rene A. Henry
Rene A. Henry
SEATTLE, WA (Special to Huntingtonnews.net) -- It’s that time of the year again.  March Madness.  Colleges and universities continue to waste millions of dollars of free television advertising time that they could better use to win public support for higher education.

There are four basketball tournaments underway now – the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s “Big Dance,” the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), the College Insider Tournament (CIT) and the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).  All total, some 152 teams are playing in these post-season tournaments.   

During the regular season, conference tournaments and now the post-season tournaments, the colleges and their respective conferences are given free air time to broadcast their commercials.  In the past year I’ve seen hundreds of commercials.  Take away the name of the college and you can’t tell one from another.  Most show a bell tower, students walking across campus and in classrooms and labs with faculty.  They do nothing to inform the viewers of the importance of higher education, the many problems facing colleges and universities, and why support is needed today more than ever before.   

College tuition and fees continue to increase at incomprehensible, skyrocketing rates.  Add to this the numerous crises and scandals on college campuses that involved athletic departments and at least one peaceful demonstration against rising costs where students were pepper-sprayed by the campus police.   For years state legislators have slowly been destroying the finest public education system in the world by continuing to slash budgets for higher education.  An education at any of our nation’s colleges and universities is envied throughout the world.   

College and university presidents and chancellors complain about budget cuts but do nothing to win support from the public or the state legislatures.  One of the easiest ways to start turning things around is to make use of the free television time.  Higher education needs to let taxpayers know what their college and universities are doing for them.  Some estimates are that every dollar spent on higher education is returned to the public tenfold.

  Higher education has blatantly wasted millions of dollars of free opportunities to tell its story.  

Don’t blame the coaches or athletic directors.  Television advertising is not their responsibility.  The buck stops with the presidents, chancellors and governing boards. The next time you hear one complain about budget cuts, suggest s/he make use of the free commercial time and get with it!  Television time is a wonderful but misused opportunity.  

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Rene A. Henry lives in Seattle, Washington and writes on a variety of subjects. He spent 10 years of his professional career in higher education and his experience in sports spans five decades.  His book, “Communicating In A Crisis” has chapters on both crises in higher education and crises in sports.  Many of his commentaries are posted on his website at  HYPERLINK "http://www.renehenry.com" \t "_blank" www.renehenry.com. For David M. Kinchen's review of "Communicating In A Crisis," click: http://archives.huntingtonnews.net/columns/080930-kinchen-columnsbookreview.html
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