406mtsports.com editor Jeff Welsch made his case in a column last week for the return of NCAA football to MSUB and the Billings community. Looking past the potential economic impact of the sport’s return, several of his remarks sparked controversy among the Gazette’s readership. Some readers are condemning Welsch’s comments, labeling him “misogynistic” and “outdated” for insinuating that the school's nontraditional, largely female population might not bode well for future recruiting efforts.
In the editorial, Welsch states that “It can’t be easy to recruit to a school sparking so little interest. Many male athletes must look askance at classes half-populated with women their mothers’ age.” Reasonably so, members of the community resent his attitude. My initial reaction, similar to that of many other readers, is what kind of “campus culture” are you idealizing that focuses on the school’s female demographic as a recruitment strategy?
How, in 2021, are men vocally objectifying women as incentives in an educational setting? I agree that football’s return would breathe life back into a dying fan base, but it is important to remember at what expense. Welsch references the “passion” of the football fan bases for the UM and MSU football programs, but let’s not forget the very unforgiving culture that seems to inevitably accompany some successful football programs — like UM’s, which has led to declining enrollment rates at that institution. The culture I’m referencing, regrettably, is rape culture.
It may seem unfair to associate programs’ success with something so sinister, but it’s no more unjust than insinuating that a female student body lacking sex appeal would be a deterrent to prospective male athletes. Could the link between the two be men’s attitudes towards women? Welsch is far from the minority in his thinking.
By placing male athletes in these boxes, we limit them from evolving beyond the stereotypes that plague our community on either end of the spectrum. We will be forced to continue this tired dialogue until Montanans decide to shake themselves free from the crippling weight of their own misogynistic culture.
Forgive me for not wanting to revert back to a high school dynamic where, if I’m lucky, just maybe, one of the cool football players will choose to come to my school because they were able to sexualize my classmates and me. My mistake, I thought college was about pursuing higher education, not attention from the opposite sex.
“Contemporary Billings'' is, unfortunately, not so contemporary. Welsch’s comments are a prime example of this. Bringing football back and creating an atmosphere where athletic programs are known for their winning records rather than their players’ sexual assault charges would be excellent, but it won’t be attainable until young men are held to a higher standard and taught how to see women as more than pursuits. Then, football can just be football again.
Caty Gondeiro is a news assistant at The Billings Gazette