In recent years, particularly after the huge new indoor practice facility was funded and built, I've heard some people question the legitimacy of spending so much money on sports at Brigham Young University. As is evident from the name of my blog, I'm a huge fan of BYU sports, especially football and basketball. I believe that the funds spent on BYU sports are not wasted.
Let me first state that I don't know whether tithing monies are used to support BYU sports. I know that a lot of people have donated money to build the Indoor Practice Facility, Larry H. Miller Field, and other facilities. I also know that the sports programs raise money through ticket sales, advertising, and concessions, and I know that companies like Nike may help supply uniforms. I don't know whether the sports programs pay for themselves. If they don't (and the point of this post is not to debate the profitability of the various mens and womens programs), I don't know whether tithing funds are used to make up the difference in revenues and expenses.
For the purpose of this post, let's assume that some tithing funds are used to support BYU sports. If you disagree (and you may be right), then at least we can agree some people donate huge amounts of money which arguably could be spent on more humanitarian or gospel-related projects.
Given those assumptions, I still believe that the money spent on BYU sports is well-spent for many reasons. In my mind, the primary reason is that BYU's sports programs, especially football, are an indispensable missionary tool which reaches many people other missionary programs are less likely to reach. Take this recent article on the San Francisco Chronicle website, for example. The author talked to the well-known Reverend Jerry Falwell. They talked about football. Reverend Falwell said, "My respect for Catholicism and Mormonism goes straight up watching Notre Dame and Brigham Young play." Sure, I don't think BYU football will convert Jerry Falwell, but it shows what a positive effect BYU sports can have on people who probably wouldn't listen to the missionaries.
We are aware of the many players who came to BYU from various backgrounds and later joined the Church. Many are now serving as member missionaries in various parts of the world.
Other former BYU players and coaches now at the professional level also continue to spread goodwill about the Church in countless ways. Take a look, for example, at this Philadelphia NBC 10 story by Vai Sikahema about Andy Reid, both Church members who were formerly involved with BYU football.
Funds spent on BYU sports also help to reach countless youth, members and non-members alike, in a positive manner. So many LDS young men and women are involved in high school sports and want to continue on at the collegiate level. Others want to attend a university where they can be involved in different ways from the marching band and cheerleading to rabid fan and supporter. Without strong programs, many of these students would go elsewhere and participate in programs that are not as tolerant of missions nor as strong in upholding the values we believe in.
Whether or not tithing is used to support BYU football and other sports, I believe the money spent on BYU's sports programs is worth it. These programs play a significant role in the missionary efforts of the Church and its progress.