I've said a lot of unflattering things about a certain athletic director in the last few months, and while I'm not going to totally draw back those statements, reading this piece by the WWL's Mark Schlabach about the impact of the recession on college sports kind of took some of the edge off my calls for firing.
Colorado State cut more than $160,000 from its budget, most of which came from trimming marketing and facilities costs. UNLV eliminated insurance for its walk-on players and asked coaches (with the exception of the football team) to conduct more daytime practices to save on lighting costs. Florida International's athletic department won't fund the cheerleading squad, and it cut marching band and will invite high school bands to play at its home football games. Some schools in Texas stopped providing complimentary soft drinks to their employees and are exploring ways to save on utility costs.
Yeah. Pretty rough stuff. And before you ask how much Isiah Thomas is making at FIU...
We're not just talking about the small schools either:
Many schools, including Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, have stopped publishing media guides and recruiting brochures and are instead producing DVDs, which will save on printing and shipping costs. Boise State even eliminated land-line phones from some of its offices and asked coaches to use only cell phones.
A few coaches, including those at Arizona, Arizona State, Clemson and Wisconsin, are taking unpaid furloughs.
Now no one is crying over a DVD media guide or loss of land line phones. It is 2009. But unpaid furloughs for coaches at a Big 10 school like Wisconsin? Now that's a little scary.
Any insight into why Mr. Schlabach?
Many athletic departments are struggling to balance their financial books after receiving less funding from state legislatures and fewer donations from alumni and boosters.
At a time when our governor won't even fund the academics at Penn State (write to your representatives pronto, by the way) I think Tim Curley deserves a lot of credit for running not only a very successful, but also financially self-suffcient athletic department that doesn't rely on tax-payer dollars and such to survive.
When you put Coastal Carolina, Youngstown St., and NJIT at the Philly Hoops Classic in that context, you get an idea of how lucky you are to be a Penn Stater. While many schools are talking about cutting programs, we're talking about how we can make them better, and not only football and basketball, but all the teams at Penn State. Sitting through those games is a small price to pay when you consider student athletes all over the country are watching their teams disappear because their schools can't afford to fund them.
Our football and basketball teams are the engines that drive everything for Penn State athletics. The importance of the revenue they pull in (especially the football team) through ticket sales and donations is incalculable, because it's all we have to count on.
Could the schedules be better without sacrificing the revenue? Probably. But that really should be among the least of our concerns.
It really is all about the Benjamins folks. We can joke about it, but the reality of it is, the athletic department that doesn't scrape for every penny possible is ultimately the one that will let it's students down. Let's be thankful we aren't that athletic department.