Sports not likely to feel cuts
While the University may be faced with difficult decisions about terminating staff positions, increasing class sizes and raising tuition due to the looming state budget cuts to higher education, UH’s athletic department may go by unscathed.
Every Thursday, The Daily Cougar will take an in-depth look at how proposed cuts to the state’s higher education allocation will affect the University and its future.
Feb. 17: Tier One initiative
Feb. 24: Staff terminations
March 3: Athletics programs
March 10: The role of community colleges
March 24: Public vs. private debate
March 31: Financial aid
Track this series and find expanded resources on thedailycougar.com/budgetcuts2011
Richard Bonnin, executive director of media relations at UH, said one of the reasons the department may not be affected is that it is not directly funded by the state.
The department generates revenue from a number of different sources, including ticket sales, NCAA and conference distributions, program sales, concessions, parking, sponsorships, endowment income, media rights and student fees, Bonnin said.
For fiscal year 2011, according to financial information provided by Cassie Arner, associate athletic director of communications, the athletic department’s revenue has grown more than $5 million in the last three years.
“We’ve gone from $9.7 million in 2009 to $15.7 million in 2011,” Arner said. “When we can increase the amount of revenue we bring in, we can reduce what we’re dependent on the University for.”
According to the University’s FY 2011 Plan and Budget, UH receives $15,256,089 in student fees. From those student fees, the University provides the athletics department with $4,362,707.
The University also provides the athletic department with $12,347,521 of direct institutional support. These figures may seem large, but Bonnin said the athletic department only amounts to 3.4 percent of the University’s budget; academics accounts for 62.5 percent of the school’s budget.
As the Legislature continues with plans to invest less money into higher education, the athletic department may yet feel some of the after effects.
In a scenario where budget cuts do affect athletics, a percentage reduction could be made to the institutional support given to the department.
If that does happen, the department would look for ways to reduce costs without hindering the overall well-being of the student-athlete. But, Arner said, there are already measures in place to bring down costs and save money for the department.
Arner said the athletic department has restructured the way it goes about raising funds and the ways the department acquires revenue.
Conference USA, of which UH is a part, has signed a new deal with FOX Sports, which means the department will receive a larger payout than before.
The department has also changed the way it goes out and recruits donors, has a new licensing company, LRG, to take care of its merchandising and is renegotiating a contract with IMG, which handles corporate and media rights. All of these moves are efforts to increase revenue and become more self-sufficient.
“That’s always the goal of every athletic department,” Arner said. “We hope we’ll be able to grow our revenue and therefore not need as much institutional support. However, it takes a really strong and responsible fiscal mind. The first of our short-term goals is budget.”
Recently, a similar fiscal situation to the one UH is facing occurred at the University of California-Berkeley.
The UC System had to find ways to resolve financial difficulties that resulted from state cuts to higher education.
In order to help reduce the economic strain on the school, officials devised a plan to reduce the amount of funding that the school provides for inter-collegiate athletics from around $12 million to $5 million, resulting in the elimination of two programs — men’s gymnastics and baseball.
Although UH is facing similar problems, the University cannot eliminate any of its athletic programs. If UH were to eliminate any program it would lose its status as a Division-1 university, Arner said.
The NCAA website states that Division-1 schools must have at least 14 sports, which also have to be male-to-female proportional.
“We will not eliminate any sports,” Arner said. “We are currently at the minimum sports number that you can have to operate at a Division-1 level. There will never be a time where we eliminate sports.”