Non-revenue sports provide tremendous bang for your buck
By EVAN BUDROVICH
College Contributor Network
As the college football season came to a close, the collegiate sports world got introduced to what real amateur sports are all about. It may not have the glitz or glamor of the highly marketable College Football Playoff, but the allure of non-revenue sports gives sports fans a fresh taste of reality.
The action is pure, not tempered by weighing expectations of professional influence. Sure, certain Olympic athletes have careers beyond college, but a large majority of athletes are in it for the short-lived thrill of being the best they can for as long as possible. Rude as that may sound, these sports are rather different than your generic revenue-generators at big-time Division-I football and basketball programs. But that doesn't mean the sanctity of competition is comprised. Heck, I'd even argue these athletes embody everything we dream about as fans. Most of them blend right into the regular campus vibe, other than the fact they are decked out in school-related apparel and fancy backpacks.
The non-revenue mantra is exactly that, a free and unaltered (for the most part) form of competition where athletic performance is only part of the equation. Skeptics may argue otherwise but the true nature of these sports, many of which are Olympic-athlete driven and record-based, feature national powerhouses that transcend the box score across a variety of different venues.
All of these programs (among many others we forgot to include) have a firm pulse on the sport, but that doesn't stop the college world from infusing a little bad blood into the equation. These rivalries are fierce in a different light, mostly between coach to coach, player to player. They are especially strong when different family members show up to games and can sit within inches of one another.
That's right, you better believe the days of constant sideline coaching from your parents, years we can never fully get back, become fully ingrained into the action. It's quite honestly a family atmosphere, especially at a time where most of these parents understand that this will be the last time their kids can shine on the athletic spectrum. Most of the fans that actually show up are parents, or just long-time supporters of a various school, so these people are passionate, knowledgeable but also very attached.
See that's the thing, expectations are different when compared to those "marquee" Division-I programs.
Athletic directors want their programs to succeed, obviously, but the end goal centers around crafting a product that best represents the university. What does that really mean? Well, coaches are competing for a finite amount of attention scanning the national, and sometimes international landscape, for the best and brightest stars. NCAA sports like gymnastics, water polo, rowing, tennis, volleyball thrive off international talent. And unlike in football where national recruiting sites give you an in-depth glimpse into everything imaginable, these players develop their own stories over four-to-five years in school.
The fine line for success and failure is not measured in dollars raised, although that's supposed to be the "theory" behind all of collegiate athletics; even football and basketball. Non-revenue sports base success on progress, both as a national brand but also in the eyes of their athletic, and academic peers. Now that doesn't mean a losing season is accepted, you'd almost have to argue on the contrary because of the prominence of national dynasties that run rampant in these sports.
While everyone on the field can't develop into a doctor or lawyer after graduation, the Cardale Jones-approach to class is in the absolute minority. Many of kids athletes grew up together, traveling the country as prep stars and travel-team phenoms. These relationships form deep-seeded rivalries in competition as pure as a good-old fashioned game of elementary school handball.
So, it's now time to get off the couch and watch a game live and in-person, because that's the best way to enjoy what these athletes have to offer. It may not be as flashy as tailgating or storming the court, but non-revenue sports provide plenty of great plays, big moments and crazy antics from those heartfelt fanatics.
Evan Budrovich is a senior at the University of Southern California. He has a passion for the 49ers, Dodgers baseball and all things USC athletics. Follow him on Twitter: @evanbud