Administration News

SFAC: Athletics tries to compete with big conferences on a smaller budget

Mack Rhoades

Athletics Director Mack Rhoades speaks on behalf of Intercollegiate Athletics to SFAC on Monday. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

UH Athletics has goals of being nationally competitive, but it often has to do more with less.

Compared to the power conferences, like the Big 12, Big Ten and Southeastern Conference, UH receives significantly less from its deal with the American Athletic Conference. Each school in the SEC could receive almost $34 million in 2014-15 according to USA Today, while UH took home only $6.4 million through distributions from the NCAA and the American.

In the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ presentation for the Student Fees Advisory Committee on Monday, Athletics Director Mack Rhoades and Associate Athletics Director for Capital and Special Projects TJ Meagher discussed how despite limitations, rising graduation rates, a successful spring and improving facilities have brought a bigger national glare on UH – for good reasons.

The athletics department asked for a no change in its base augmentation, which is almost $4.4 million.

“I feel like anybody that invests money, they want to feel good about what they’re investing in. We want to make sure the students understand that one, what the student allocation has provided us, we don’t take it for granted,” Rhoades said after the presentation.

“And throughout the course of time, these last four years we have done a good job in terms of using their money to help make us better… Without that we couldn’t operate at the level we’re operating at.”

Rhoades admitted the difference in funding is limiting in some respects, but he said he still thinks UH has the tools to regain its status as a preeminent college athletics power — a position UH hasn’t held since the mid 1980s.

Then, former basketball coach Guy V. Lewis was guiding the Cougars to the Final Four, legendary golf coach Dave Williams was leading UH to his 16th national title and the football program was earning conference championships.

Although the revenue generating sports like football and men’s basketball have been up-and-down, others programs are making progress. All six of the Cougars’ spring sports reached the NCAA tournament, highlighted by baseball and golf.

The baseball team tied a single-season record for wins (48), reached a NCAA super regional for only the fourth time in UH history and won the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament. The golf team finished No. 9 in the country while winning the most team championships since 2005 (4) and earned its first NCAA tournament berth since 2001.

To recapture the magic that the basketball and football programs once routinely had, the department has focused on making its facilities nationally competitive. After opening a $120 million football stadium in August, UH broke ground on a $25 million basketball development facility in May. When the development facility is completed, UH expects to begin the renovation of Hofheinz Pavilion.

“The most critical thing for us to have a competitive basketball program is that practice facility,” Rhoades said.

But the Athletics department was also proud of accomplishments in the classroom, where the Cougars have a higher GPA than the general University population and 25 percent of student athletes made the dean’s list in the fiscal year 2014-15, according to their SFAC presentation.

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