Where Are They Now? Anderson College Series
(by Dr. Mark Hopkins and Steve Hopkins)
Article 3: Building A College Table Tennis Program
Many table tennis enthusiasts from across the country find it hard to understand why the sport does not “catch on” with the general public. College athletics is a big focus for sports in this country. Many of those sports that thrive on college campuses also thrive as Olympic sports. It seems that getting table tennis onto college campuses and accepted as a competitive sport alongside football, basketball, and baseball would be key in reaching the public consciousness. So, how can we promote table tennis on college campuses?
College campuses are little cities within cities. Campuses basically serve as hotels and restaurants for students. They provide movies, plays, musicals, sports, and any number of other activities for entertainment. Sports activities on college campuses may seem to be all fun and games but there is a very real business side to offering those activities to students that have little to do with gate receipts. Colleges make their living by attracting quality students and keeping them in school until they graduate. Students who are involved in activities of one kind or another are twice as likely to graduate as those who aren’t involved. Thus, activities are not just fun and games — they are necessary to the success of the business enterprise.
One can use the sum of the cost of tuition, room, and board to see how much income is derived from each student who comes to a particular college or university. Economists have also determined that each student who comes to a community spends an additional $7500 per year in local gas stations, grocery stores, and malls. In approaching the Administration at a local college, it is important to produce a plan for a table tennis program that will both attract students and generate money.
Every student who comes to college generates money for both the college and the community and in most private colleges that income is generally well over $150,000 for the four years on campus. Having a full campus of students is doubly important to private colleges since a higher percentage of their income comes from tuition. Public colleges have tax money support from a variety of sources and tuition dollars are not as important. Thus, if one was looking to approach a college to talk about adding table tennis, the most receptive might be a smaller private college with a four-year degree program. If it also has business or computer graduate programs that is even better.
In the 1980s when Anderson College was hosting a club and entertaining the possibility of expanding, many of the best players could not find collegiate programs that would afford them an opportunity to play table tennis competitively. If their sport was football, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, or lacrosse, then they would have had numerous choices of where to go to college where they could continue competing. This just wasn’t so with table tennis at that time. Anderson College developed a plan that included a coach, the allocation of space, scholarship monies, and regular competitions for players – while keeping in mind that our private college was a business that needed any program to be financially self-sufficient.
The college offered coaches free housing and tuition – benefits to the coach that were greater that the cost to the college (as at that time, Anderson College had empty dorm space and class space for extra students). Quality players from across the country were immediately attracted to the college including both Americans and international players. The college program received great coverage and recognition within table tennis circles in that time.
How did it all work out financially for the college? At that time tuition was approximately $12,000 per year and Room & Board totaled an additional $7,000. Thus, there was a total income per student of $19,000. Under the Anderson College model, having about fifteen players enrolled to play on the team would generate just under $200,000 in annual income (after subtracting the cost of room and board for each student). The expenditures averaged around $70,000 per year including the coach’s housing, travel for the team, and competitions. The program initially had one tuition scholarship from the school which was shared between several of the players. Thus, total net from the table tennis program was conservatively $100,000 for the year. The community also benefited as another $100,000 was spent in local business in and around the campus. By any standard the program was judged to be a financial success.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins was a College President for 25 years, and was the head of Anderson College when the table tennis program was created.