COLUMN: Putting The Factory in perspective

Thursday’s announcement by Heather Lyke, Eastern Michigan University Vice President and Director of Athletics and football coach Chris Creighton of the installation of grey turf at Rynearson Stadium (henceforth called “The Factory”) has already sparked a great deal of discussion on social media – most of it negative.

The project is paid for with funds from Eastern’s “Game day guarantees,” or money from playing larger Division I schools such as last year’s game at Penn State University in which the athletic department received $550,000.

The connection, which has been made on social media that I’ve seen the most so far is that because EMU is installing grey turf at The Factory, tuition is increasing 3.2 percent.

That is false.

Tuition is going up across the state. Michigan State University (2.8 percent), Wayne State University (8.9 percent), Michigan Technological University (5 percent) and that school down the street (1.1 percent) are all increasing their tuition for the coming school year. EMU is just in the middle of the pack.

While that game day money can, according to Jeremy Rosenberg of Eagle Totem, go to other things within the university, I want to make one thing perfectly clear right now.

It was never, for one second, going to leave the athletic department.

If you’re going to complain about the new turf, take this into perspective.

EMU has not changed the playing surface at The Factory since 2005, so given normal wear and tear and nearly 10 years of playing on the same surface, I understand that.

Another simple fact of the matter is this – and I tweeted it Thursday after the announcement was made.

There are two sports that get the majority of the money from the athletic budget: football and men’s basketball. They’re the “revenue” sports here at Eastern. Lyke said as much in Thursday’s news conference.

“We are committed to the success of this football program,” she said. “We will invest in the building blocks to demonstrate that we believe in our coaching staff and our student-athletes.”

If you’re going to complain about inequity in terms of playing fields, look at Scicluna Field – home of the soccer team.

Scicluna, which has no catchy nickname, also has no seats. Spectators come to watch the team and either bring their own chairs, sit on the grass or stand. Even Varsity Field, hidden for all intents and purposes, has some seating for fans.

In case you’re wondering, the soccer team won the Mid-American Conference regular season title this past season.

One thing that I think many students, myself included, can agree on is our dislike of the name “The Factory” for Rynearson.

Creighton made a reference that his team was very much like a group of guys working in a factory.

“That’s our growing identity, that’s who these guys are. It’s who we are,” Creighton said Thursday. “We want to embrace that and celebrate it and at the same time continue to reinforce it and become it.”

I went back to school after working in the tire business – a rather unfulfilling “career.” It was nothing like working in a factory, which quite a few of my friends and family have done over the years.

I will speak for myself on this, but feel free to agree or disagree with me – the whole reason I came back to school was so that I could get away from where I was and move on to something better. I don’t really want to be reminded of it for a couple of hours every Saturday.

Now, if these changes help motivate the team to win more than four games and change the culture of the program – I will be the first one to stand up and say the athletic department and the “Enhance the Experience” committee did the right thing. But if that game day money is really burning a hole in your pocket – at least put some permanent seats down at Scicluna.

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Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho

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