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Education vs. Athletics in battle of the budget
by Harry Spencer
Feb 05, 2010 | 1924 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the current crisis in Nevada’s budget shortfall, it looks like education on all levels is going to take the biggest hit after the coming special session of the Legislature.

In a story earlier this week, it was revealed that the state’s university system will be in line for one of the deepest cuts. In that story, buried toward the back, there was a list that included some of the choices that will be facing the university system regents if and when the budget ax falls. Among them were staff reductions, raising tuition, closing the community college campuses and, almost unbelievably, the elimination of athletic programs at both the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

It is the latter choice that could stir up a firestorm of controversy if it comes up for consideration. For all the sports buffs, there is an equal, and possibly larger, group of people who believe that education is the primary duty of any institution of higher learning. If those camps have to go at it against one another, it would be a donneybrook of epic proportions. Currently, the feeling is that athletics should be self-supporting following whatever share they get out of the total university budget. Because of lucrative TV deals, gate sales and the huge support from private donors, that might be the case. On the other hand, it is well known that the university sports programs that actually generate the largest share of the income are the football and basketball (men’s) departments. Since Title IX came into being, equal money from the athletic department has to be doled out fairly to both men’s and women’s programs.

The guy caught in the crosshairs of this impending problem is UNR president Milton Glick. He will have to abide by whatever decision the NSHE Board of Regents ultimately makes but he should have a great deal of input as to what that decision should be.

The one thing the present crisis has done is boost the flagging popularity of Gov. Jim Gibbons since his approach to the problem is simply, “You have to live within your means.” Backing that up is the current economy that doesn’t support raising taxes as an alternative. In a state that is in one of the worst financial situations in the country, it would be foolhardy to think the populace is in any mood for tax hikes.

Many critics of former Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn are saying that the former head of state should never have squandered the $300 million that he returned to the people while State Sen. Bill Raggio was campaigning to have that money go into the rainy day fund. Well, currently it looks more like a deluge than a rainy day for the state. Another item on which Guinn received as much criticism as he did praise was his institution of the Millennium Scholarship with its low grade point average for qualification. Many who toiled in positions on the UNR campus in those early years noted that it was a “paid vacation” for many freshmen, who neither knew what they wanted to pursue as a course of study or who were not interested in attending any classes at all. That problem was partly corrected when the grade entry levels were finally raised, but looking at the Guinn record is a little like crying over spilled milk.

Whatever the special session produces, it will probably not be too satisfying to gubernatorial aspirants who will have to live with those decisions until the 2011 regular session of the Legislature. No one knows who will be residing in the governor’s mansion following this year’s election but Gibbons is fully committed to seeking another term.

Mapes bash a

huge success

Sunday evening at the Siena Hotel in downtown Reno, revelers were treated to a memorial party marking the 10th anniversary of the Mapes hotel implosion, which occurred on Jan. 30, 2000. Held in the main ballroom of the Siena, which is on the second flood just above the drive-up portecochere, the event attracted close to 250 guests, many of them dressed in 1950s attire.

The event was sponsored by the Truckee Preservation Society, namely Renta Neuman. Former Reno City Councilwoman Toni Harsh, who labored mightily to save the Mapes, was also a prime mover at the event. The Siena ballroom was configured to resemble the Mapes Sky Room for an evening floor show. During its heyday, from 1947 to 1982, the Mapes Sky Room featured top names in the entertainment world and was the site of a live telecast on the popular “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which typically aired from New York City.

In addition to cocktails and hors d’ouvres, the evening featured a silent auction of Mapes memorabilia, book signings by local historian authors and a number of other displays. Also in force were representatives of the current local Olympics Organizing Committee that is seeking the return of the Winter Olympic Games, which were last held here at Squaw Valley in 1960. The Mapes’ Olympic tie-in was that the official Olympic press club was housed on the top floor of the 12-story Mapes and attracted worldwide press, most notably Walter Cronkite who was the first telecaster of any Olympic games.

Sunday’s live entertainment consisted of a local dance troupe, the Smoking Bulldogs band, singers Jakki Ford and Burt Bonaldi of the Gaylords fame. Dancing a la the Sky Room was also a big part of the evening. In addition to the Preservation Society monies collected, funds also went to children’s cancer research.

Promoters of the Sky Room party were so pleased that they are considering making it an annual event.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer's column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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