Staff Editorial: The issue with the Cardinals: football over students

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It seems a three-year deal was not enough to keep the Arizona Cardinals in Flagstaff for their training camp this summer, and as Northern Arizona University (NAU) inches forward with contingency plans, they should keep a more important deal on their minds — the four-year one they make with undergraduate students.

Although the Cardinals provided an economic boon to Flagstaff and NAU for the past 25 years, the “extraordinary” bid NAU president John Haeger offered was not enough to keep the red birds roosted at altitude. While fans await an official announcement, the new summer home of the losing-est team in the NFC West (with a record of 5–11) will likely be in the boiling furnace of the Glendale — because poultry burned to a char really is best.

Sure, Flagstaff has been named one of the best NFL training camps, providing great fan access to players.  Sure, the team brings an infusion of visitors to the city — but it is tourist season anyway.  When the Cardinals were forced to temporarily move their summer training camp to Prescott in 2005 due to a virus outbreak at NAU, tourist-related sales remained steady with 2004 levels and did not drastically increase in 2006 with the return of the red birds.

NAU has catered to the Cardinals and the City of Flagstaff long enough.  The university already moved back the fall semester schedule to start on a Wednesday, with commencement also falling on a Wednesday. If the schedule remains this way, the finals schedule will also have to be adjusted. If the cards fall into place and the team signs a 15-year deal as speculated with Glendale, the NAU and the City of Flagstaff will search for alternative uses of the university’s facilities — maybe this time they will benefit the school’s mission of higher education.

Instead of allowing the city to coerce them into branding themselves as an athletics-based institution, NAU needs to recognize the needs of their student population and invest in pursuits that have a tangible impact.

Haeger has said if the Cardinals confirm the move down south, NAU will “immediately begin planning other uses for our facilities that assure both revenue for the community and support for our academic mission.”

It is great he mentions the school’s academic mission, but this should not be an ancillary mention, it should be the central dogma of an institution of higher education. NAU should not be concerned with bringing in uses that contribute to the city’s economy.

The campus should not take responsibility for stimulating Flagstaff’s economy. While the partnership between the Flagstaff City Council and the NAU administration is important, the relationship between students and their academic institution should carry more weight than local concerns.

If for some reason the Cardinals decide to continue their summer migrations up the hill and keep their training camp in Flagstaff, NAU needs to evaluate this relationship — is it really worth it to keep a philandering team at the expense of students, even if it benefits the community in other ways?

This scenario is unlikely, and the Cardinals will probably end up in the city of Glendale, in the heart of their fan base.  Having the team in Flagstaff has been more of a marketing tool for the “Summer Home of the Arizona Cardinals” than a true asset to the university’s academic goals.  Instead of marketing solely to other athletic franchises and teams, the university should use the resources previously dedicated to the Cardinals to benefit the student population through improving its standing as a regional leader in disciplines such as forestry, environmental science and hotel restaurant management. Investing in such programs directly benefit students’ undergraduate experience instead of them just being able to brag that they walked past a field to watch an over-done quarterback position battle.

Editor’s note: Copy Chief Maddie Friend wrote this editorial on behalf of the staff.



Coconino Community College
Student Housing at NAU