But there is the other side, and Lo Schiavo admits that without a big-time sport, he "sensed a void on campus." Unlike Villanova, USF is a city school, and it isn't bound as much by religion, with barely 46% of the student body listing itself as Roman Catholic. And so, Lo Schiavo set up a task force that studied the situation and voted to bring Division I basketball back this season, but with strict qualifications.
Lo Schiavo appointed a new athletic director, a fellow priest. Father Bob Sunderland. He chose a new coach, a former Don player he knew well, Jim Brovelli. While the president allowed a new booster club to be set up, its donations had to be channeled directly to the university. "Before, the boosters had been setting priorities for us," Lo Schiavo says ruefully. Moreover, USF is in the middle of its own $12 million capital campaign to build a new recreation center that could be used by all students; none of the money will go to varsity basketball.
Almost everyone is happy at USF now that the school has its basketball back, but life on the Hilltop went on quite well without it—and so did the capital campaign. "The premise that sports raises funds for a university is accepted almost everywhere, but I can't see that it is proved," Lo Schiavo says. Indeed, he rather suspects that those who give money to a university because of its sports success are probably inclined to give most or all directly to the athletic program and not to the educational side.
Seattle University presents, in many respects, an even more compelling case. The basketball tradition there was almost as great as that at USF. There were no other major sports. There was no pressure, no terrible scandal that prompted the school to deemphasize basketball. When Sullivan announced the university's decision in 1980, he made it plain that Seattle had the finances to continue. Only one issue animated the decision: "Should an institution like Seattle be placing such large amounts of money into subsidizing a program for a handful of students—one that in many ways contaminates the educational ideals of a university?"
And since Seattle abandoned NCAA Division I in favor of the NAIA, the following things have happened at the school:
•Enrollment is up nearly 15%.
•Money used for athletic scholarships has been shifted over to academic awards, with $70,000 directly earmarked for minorities—so now if there are fewer blacks on the basketball court, there are more black students in the classrooms.
•Other funds used for varsity basketball have been given over to intramural athletics, exponentially increasing the physical activity and morale on campus. Sullivan says, "I don't think there's any question that school spirit is enhanced."
•Where there had been four sports clubs on campus when big-time basketball was abolished, now there are a dozen, involving many more students in athletics.
•Alumni have actually been donating more dollars to the school, in significant increments, every year since the decision was made. "We were told there wouldn't be any more alumni support," Sullivan says. "But it's clear that with a few exceptions, alumni support their universities because of their education—and not because of the fact that for a few times during the course of their undergraduate years they sat in the bleachers and watched somebody else dribble up and down the court or run across a field."