The UMKC Men’s basketball team traveled three hours down I-35, there to be drubbed by Wichita State, 109-57. The women’s ream sparkled by comparison, losing by only 19 at Western Illinois.
These losses raise the question anew: why on God’s green earth is UMKC playing Division I sports?
It could have been worse for the men’s team. WSU eased up in the second half after jumping off to a 39-point halftime lead.
The UMKC Facebook writer tried to find a positive spin: “Seven Roos have scored for UMKC, but trail the Shockers, 62-23.” That is one mighty big “but.” The end of the game summary was equally cheery: “Wichita State takes this one from the Roos. Broderick Robinson, Aleer Leek and Isaiah Ross each hit double figures!” You have to like that exclamation point.
Long simmering frustration with UMKC’s costly sports program broke out into the open on campus last March when faculty members questioned the university’s commitment to Division I sports. The university currently supports sixteen Division I teams, seven for men, nine for women.
The sports program drains roughly $12 million from UMKC’s core budget, a figure the administration hopes to reduce over time, but certain members of the Faculty Senate openly expressed their discontent with the pace of disengagement.
“I am very disappointed. We keep on being the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none,” said Professor Kathy Krause. “That’s not responsible in my book.”
One thing UMKC has not mastered is the centerpiece of its athletic program, men’s basketball. If KU fans were unhappy last March that their team did not make the Final Four, they should take solace knowing that UMKC has never made the tournament in its 27-year Division 1 history. The Kangaroos now play in the Western Athletic Conference, a miscellaneous assortment of teams stretching from Chicago to Seattle.
UMKC’s 18-17 record on the 2016-2017 season made it a good year by school standards. As a Division I school, UMKC’s men basketball has a record of 353 wins against 474 losses for a winning percentage of .428.
Attendance figures at the men’s basketball games are perennially awful. Playing in the 10,000 seat Municipal Auditorium, the team averages an embarrassingly small 1500 fans a game. One suspects that the crowds at women’s basketball, let alone’s women’s softball and men’s golf events, are decidedly smaller.
Wichita State and KU can at least make a persuasive argument for maintaining sports programs that otherwise subvert the academic mission of the university, but at UMKC it is pure subversion.