Athletic dept. checking sofa cushions for change
By Reba Lean
Sun Star Reporter
An athletic department request for $260,000 to help cover athletic teams’ travel expenses made it into the Board of Regent’s budget this year, and then went no further. Its next stop would have been the governor’s proposed budget to the legislature, but the request was not picked up by the governor.
The $260,000 request was only meant as a last resort. Athletic Director Forrest Karr admitted that he “was hoping, but not expecting,” that it would make it to the legislature. UA Spokeswoman Kate Ripley says that since the request didn’t make it into the governor’s proposal, “the university has had little to no opportunity to talk to legislators about it.”
The department, already underwater financially, is now scrounging for ways to make ends meet. According to Karr, there are two options: find different forms of revenue or make cuts.
In 2008, a new athletic fee was added to students’ accounts. For eight dollars per credit hour, up to $96 per semester, students can get into games for free.
Cuts have already been made. In the last two years, each team has had to cancel one road trip, scholarships for fifth-year seniors and summer school athletes have been taken away, the department has reduced contracts, laid off employees and kept positions empty.
The funding request was specifically made to meet rising airline ticket costs. The department has seen a number of its expenses go up. Scholarships for athletes and rising tuition costs are up. Salary and benefits for employees have increased significantly and lately, airline ticket costs have risen.
The department deals with all sorts of airfares. For each team – rifle, basketball, skiing, etc. – there are different traveling requirements designed by the NCAA.
The request states that, “NCAA and conference obligations require UA to send its intercollegiate athletic teams to a fixed number of competitions as well as subsidize partial travel expenses incurred by teams traveling to Alaska.” For the GNAC Conference teams (basketball, volleyball and running) the teams must travel to an opponent’s site, and the opponents must travel to Fairbanks. If UAF doesn’t meet the requirements, not only is it jeopardizing its own NCAA standing, but it’s hurting opponents as well, according to Karr. That means fewer games for those teams who are also scraping the barrel to fund a minimum number of trips.
The department is in the process of discussing its options, Karr said. They hope they can get additional revenue somehow, but are also still looking at making more cuts. At this time, he was unable to specify what cuts those would be.
“The UA System, when compared to other states, doesn’t get everything it asks for, but we do have a supportive Legislature and governor,” said Ripley.
A UA athletics representative is scheduled to speak at the regents’ April 15-16 meeting in Dillingham.