If Brigham Young University's sports teams win games, it opens doors for the LDS Church's missionary work, said the president of the church-owned institution.
That makes it all worthwhile, said President Merrill J. Bateman, speaking recently at a Chamber of Commerce First Friday Forum luncheon in Provo and answering questions from the audience."I indicated to the Cougar Club a month ago that the major reason athletic programs exist is to open doors," said Bateman. "Teams that do well end up on television."
Bateman said today missionaries are often blocked out of planned and exclusive communities with locked gates.
Coverage of sports events goes beyond those doors and "accomplish a larger mission," said Bate-man.
"Rondo (Fehlberg) has that vision and I have that vision," he said, referring to the university athletic director.
Bateman responded to questions about BYU's expansion, noting that "my hope is we will find ways to accommodate more students."
He advised those in the audience to avoid stepping on campus during the coming months as major construction continues and opens up a three-story hole in the quad area between the library and the administration building.
Bateman said when construction is finished on the Harold B. Lee Library, "physical distance will mean absolutely nothing" as the library will be high-tech and accessible by computer link to most parts of the world.
He commented briefly on the purchase of South Virginia College by members of the LDS Church who hope to establish an East Coast version of BYU. "They have some challenges," he said. "I hope they succeed."
Bateman listed the rankings and recognition BYU has achieved in recent years that make the university faculty and board proud, such as ranking No. 3 in accounting school programs and in the top 25 percent of law schools after just a short time in existence.
He said that when BYU was founded, few envisioned an institution with the international character the school has today.
"BYU has taken on a different mission when it was initially established to serve people of this area," he said. "Now it's more like the church itself, reaching to an international audience."
Bateman said officials are looking at ways to raise the enrollment cap that is supposedly set at 27,000 and in real terms, works out to almost 31,000 full-time equivalents.
He cited the quest for absolute truth as BYU's major challenge in a time when society is drifting from accepting any truth.
"Fortunately, here (at BYU) we set our own standards and we believe there is truth."