Thursday, February 26, 2009

Athletic budget cut update #8 - Stanford Cuts 21 Staff Positions

Stanford Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby reduced the size of Stanford's athletic staff by 13 percent, eliminating 21 positions in what he termed an "excruciating" move. The possibility was first suggested back in January when Stanford revealed it was facing a more than $5 million budget gap. At least two of the cuts included senior staff members.
Other recent major announcements include:

  • George Washington - Athletic Director Jack Kavancz announced the elimination of the men's and women's diving teams.

  • Northwestern - Increasing student athletic fee by $4 to $37. Cutting 3% of non-salary operating budget.

  • MEAC Conference - Considering adding two conference members and creating two divisions within the conference, which provides an opportunity to reduce expenses by focusing travel within geographically aligned divisions.

  • Akron - Pledges and season ticket sales for a new stadium (which is already under construction) are slowing in a soft economy.

  • Fresno State - Eliminating printed media guides, saving approximately $75000 and nearly 3 tons of paper each year.

  • Tennessee - Moving forward with plans to merge their separate men's and women's athletic departments, one of the few remaining gender-specific athletic programs in the country.

Check back regularly for more updates.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Athletic budget cut update #7 - Northern Iowa dropping baseball

The University of Northern Iowa announced that they are dropping their baseball program in response to intense budget pressure. In addition to dropping the team, UNI is also reducing travel by $200,000 and leaving vacant staff positions open.

The announcement headlines's ongoing coverage of athletic budget cuts around the country.

Other announcements include:

  • South Carolina - The football team will bus to a Thursday game at North Carolina State (but will fly home to allow Friday class attendance). Football and men's basketball coaches will receive 5 day furloughs, saving $7,600. Head coaches asked to suggest areas ways they could implement 5%, 10% and 15% budget cuts.

  • Southern Conference - Reducing the number of teams participating in post season tournaments, mandating that baseball and softball teams compete in weekend double-headers and eliminating preseason media gatherings in football and basketball. Estimated savings from the changes are $120,000 per conference school.

  • Stony Brook - Athletics facing a possible 10 to 20% budget cut depending on state funding.

Check back regularly for more updates.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Athletic budget cut update #6

This is the sixth in a series of articles about athletic budget cuts.

Vermont - Announced the discontinuation of baseball and softball after the conclusion of the 2009 season. A $1.1 million budget deficit and a 6.5% cut in the general funds budget resulted in the devastating decision for 43 student athletes. The University also plans to leave 16 staff positions vacant, most of which are in the athletic department. "They represent, in our view, a sensible approach to inescapable financial realities," President Daniel Fogel said in an interview.

  • Hawaii - Considering elimination of a sport and indicated it would be a men's sport due to Title IX concerns.

  • Michigan - Decreasing the price of season tickets in football.

  • Middle Tennessee State - Considering the elimination of two fund-raisers to save $100,000; a $150,000 budget cut to the student athlete enhancement center; consolidation of the sports information and sports marketing offices to save an additional $175,000.

  • Tennessee Chattanooga - Athletics facing a $1 million budget reduction leading to reduced recruiting and professional development opportunities for coaches.

  • TCU - Facing an 8% budget cut - Changing equipment ordering process and scheduling more local teams for competition.

Check back regularly for more updates.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chasing the rabbit: Enough

John C. Bogel, the founder of Vanguard Funds is one of the giants of American investing. At age 79, he provides tremendous insight about the economy and society. His new book, Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life is packed with insights about the country's current economic state. But it also has many application to the college athletic environment.

I heartily endorse the book for anyone who is interested in understanding the current economic environment, learning about how to be a better investor, or is interested in timeless ideas about character and virtue. Many of his observations are universal and my focus in this post are the core values of character and virtue. Many of the quotes have relevance to college athletics, an entity that many are fond of referring to as a "business." A select few are excerpted below.

Page 1 - At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, "Yes, but I have something he will never have...enough."

Bogel goes on to set his thesis, (page 2): "Not knowing what enough is subverts our professional values. It makes salespersons of those who should be fiduciaries of the investments entrusted to them. It turns a system that should be built on trust into one with counting as its foundation. We chase false rabbits of success; we too often bow down at the altar of the transitory and finally meaningless and fail to cherish what is beyond calculation, indeed eternal."

Page 23 - We have more than enough of the fool's gold of marketing and salesmanship and not enough of the real gold of trusteeship and stewardship.

Page 33 - No matter what career you choose, do your best to hold high its traditional values, now swiftly eroding, in which serving the client is always the highest priority.

Page 98 - Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

Page 99 - Numbers are not reality. At best, they are a pale reflection of reality. At worst, they're a gross distortion of the truths we seek to measure.

Page 117 (An excerpt from David Boyle's "The sum of our discontent") - We at an age when life is completely overwhelmed by numbers and calculation and we are all increasingly controlled by "targets"...The frightening thing is that just because computers can count and measure nearly everything, then we do. There was a time when we could trust our own judgement, common sense, and intuition to know if we were ill or not. Now we're in danger of being unable to do anything without it being measured first.

Page 139 - It wasn't so many decades ago that the standards in the conduct of business were close to absolute: "There are some things that one simply doesn't do." But today we place our reliance on relative standards: "Everyone else is doing it, so I can do it, too."

Pages 194-95 - We have moved away from truth - however one might define it - to (with due respect to television commentator Stephen Colbert) truthiness, the presentation of ideas and numbers that convey neither more nor less than what we wish to believe in our own self-interest, and persuade others to believe, too.

Pages 211-12 - (quoting the Reverend Fred Craddock's story about a conversation with an old greyhound)

Reverend to the dog, "Are you still racing?" "No", he replied.

Rev: "Well what was the matter? Did you get too old to race?" "No, I still had some race in me."

Rev: "Well, what then, did you not win?" "I won over a million dollars for my owner."

Rev: "Well, what was it? Bad treatment?" "Oh no," the dog said. "They treated us royally when we were racing."

Rev: "Did you get crippled?" "No."

Rev: "Then why?" I pressed. "Why?" The dog answered: "I quit."...

Rev: "Why did you quit?"

Dog: "I just quit because after all that running and running and running, I found out that the rabbit I was chasing wasn't even real."

While there is no denying that there are business aspects to college athletics, trying budgetary times are going to test the values of college athletics in many ways. Profitability (measured in dollars) has been demonstrated to be an unachievable goal for the vast majority of college athletics programs. The values and rationale for athletics needs to be about more than finances. Education, character and values are much harder (maybe even impossible) to measure, but embracing them is more important than ever. Here's hoping that the rabbit each of us is chasing is real. Enough.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Athletic budget cut update #5

Here is the next installment in a series of postings about the on-going budget struggles in college athletics:

  • Idaho - 6.4% budget cut ($157,000) and a $183,000 "strategic reallocation" for 2009. Positions left vacant, elimination of assistant track coach, elimination of team banquets, travel reductions and scaled down recruiting.

  • Washington State - May not participate in post season basketball tournaments, other than the NCAA or NIT, over concerns about losing money by participating in lower level events.

  • All North Carolina State Supported Universities - State legislature is considering eliminating exemption that allows student athletes to be considered state residents for the purpose of calculating tuition payments to the University by athletics, resulting in a $10 million increase in tuition costs for athletic departments across the state.

  • Harvard - Offering buyouts to 10% of its 16,000 non-faculty staff members including eligible athletic staff.

  • Arizona State - Head Football Coach Dennis Erickson and Head Men's Basketball Coach Herb Sendek sacrificing a combined $34,400 in salary due to 12 days of furlough.

  • Clemson - All University employees forced to miss five days of pay - Men's basketball coach to lose $4,300 in salary.
Check back regularly for more updates.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why athletics matter - A student athlete's perspective

As the news related to athletic budgets continues to pile up and difficult financial situations are faced by many across the country, some campuses have begun to question the place of athletics compared to other priorities that are considered "core" to the educational mission of a college or university.

Jessica Berry, a starting senior guard for Princeton Women's Basketball, is an English major from Little Rock, Arkansas. The message below (reprinted here with her permission) was in an e-newsletter sent to supporters of the Princeton team. Although its original purpose was to provide an inside perspective on the team, it responds to the question, "Why does athletics matter?" I hope you'll enjoy her writing, which demonstrates the educational value of athletics and likely provides a voice for many student athletes.

It’s Sunday at about 4:15 AM, and I’ve had quite enough tossing and turning. I need a book, but nothing thesis-related—or school-related, for that matter. And it can’t be too happy. I need a book because I can’t sleep, because I keep replaying our overtime loss to Dartmouth, our nine-point loss to Harvard in my head, over and over. I see myself missing a free throw, missing a three-pointer, putting a little too much on a pass. It’s painful—a maddening montage of missed opportunities, and I’m in need of escapist fiction. Sherlock Holmes, Elizabeth Bennet... something.

Choosing Sports Illustrated writer Gary Smith, I’m really not escaping. But when my journalism class interviewed Smith last December, the 4-time National Magazine Award-winner said something that stuck with me—something about the necessity of searching for the true nature of sport, for the reasons the players play their chosen games. In the midst of my montage, in the midst of my last season and my last semester as a collegiate athlete, this is an investigation I need to undertake.

"The Boys on the Bus," page 38 of Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories. Smith takes his son to a Summerville-Stratford football game three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Why should high school football resume so soon after such devastation? How could a game-clock tick as time stood still for millions of Americans, for millions around the world? ABC’s Nightline replayed a montage of images more nightmarish than my missed shots could ever, ever deign to be, be they million, trillion-fold.

So why lose so much sleep over basketball? Why play on this team of 14 girls, of 14 athletes who love the game and play their hearts out? Who, even after a two-loss weekend, arrive early for 8 AM Monday lift, ready to spend over 20 hours this week at Jadwin gym?

The answer for both Gary Smith and for me is magical realism. As author Gabriel Garcia Marquez sees the novel form, sport can be seen as a safe space for the illogical within the logical, as an abnormal realm where the magic of a competitor’s passion is not only sanctioned, but also given agency and meaning. The Summerville-Stratford game was a solemn affair, but the fans did cheer, the band did play. Summerville Sophomore Tyler Horat capped an 18-play march with a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the play was called back; Stratford scored three times in the third to win the game and move up one spot in the 5AAA conference standings. And three days after a national tragedy, it somehow mattered, though the teams, the parents, and the referees knew it didn’t really matter at all.

There are other things going on in the world besides Princeton Women’s Basketball. House and Senate leaders today approved a $789 billion economic stimulus bill; last week, Palestinian militants fired mortar shells from southern Gaza and Israel carried out an air strike against members of the launching squad. Personally, I’ve been mourning the death of a friend, worrying over the surgery of a family member, and making plans for post-Princeton life.

But as we put on our orange and black jerseys, the magic of basketball can take the “real” and infect it with the arduous rhythm of a pre-game clap, with the roar of a bench-wide cheer. Each possession of a basketball game is a page being turned, a magical realism novel in the making. Eyes in the stands and on the sidelines move back and forth, following the ball like lines on paper. So with 2:54 left in the second half, when I dribble off my foot and the ball goes backcourt for a turnover, it matters, though I know it doesn’t really matter. And with 1:34 left in the first, when I pass to Addie Mircir and she knocks down her third three pointer of the night, it’s magical, yet it doesn’t really matter at all. It matters because, to us, it matters; we don’t expect to grace the February 16th cover of Sports Illustrated, but we do expect high fives from teammates. We expect to be helped up after taking a charge or diving after a loose ball.

I finish my chapter of Gary Smith, and, remembering the nature of my love for sport, I sleep. I sleep knowing I need my rest for Monday, for a new week of practice and preparation for Cornell and Columbia, for 21 more practices in my college career and at least 11 more games as a member of this magical team—who knows, maybe more? Anything can happen in a Garcia Marquez novel, and anything can happen in Ivy League conference basketball.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A very sad day for many in college athletics

Thursday’s plane crash of a Continental Airlines flight 3407 near Buffalo, NY resulted in the loss of 50 people, including Lorin Maurer, Athletics Friends Group Manager for Princeton Athletics.

Lorin was a very smart, energetic and fun person and those who had the good fortune to come in contact with her will always remember their friendship with her. She was a special person with a very bright future and a passion for college athletics that often translated into a remarkable ability to be a part of many great events across the sporting landscape, whether it was the Final Four, the Indianapolis 500 or the BCS National Championship just won by her Florida Gators. And each of those events, as great as they are, were a whole lot better when Lorin was in attendance because she brought many people together and created a welcoming, warm and festive environment. sends its sincere condolences to Lorin’s parents, family and to the many people in her circle of friends across Princeton, the NCAA and the college sports landscape. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lorin and those who knew her as we share the in grief that so many are experiencing over this sudden and tragic loss.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Athletic budget cut update #4

With more athletic programs revealing changes to their operations,'s ongoing review of budget cuts continues. Here's the latest:
  • Miami - Its been at least 10 years since "The U" had their football team travel in anything other than a chartered plane. That will change with the announcement that chartered flights will be abandoned in favor of buses for games at South Florida (a less than 5 hour trip) and Central Florida (less than 4 hours) in 2009 - saving $140,000. Further, a 44 point plan was announced which includes numerous other spending adjustments such as the requirement to book air travel 21 days in advance to obtain the best prices available.
  • Florida - Freezing football ticket prices for 2009.
  • Northern Arizona - Closing their high altitude training facility, elimination of the band at men's and women's basketball games, staff openings to remain vacant.
  • Western Washington - The NCAA Division II school eliminated the sport of football in order to preserve the other 15 varsity sports they offer.
  • Florida A&M - The athletic department has a $4.2 million deficit, nearly double from the previous year.

Check back regularly for more updates.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NCAA Vitamin Water deal causing a stir

The NCAA just announced that Vitaminwater, a product produced by long time corporate sponsor Coca-Cola, may put student athletes at risk of failing a drug test in the context of an NCAA championship event. Although the press release indicates that, "normal daily consumption of any of the 13 Vitaminwater varieties will not place a student-athlete at risk for testing positive for banned substances", the legalistic language around the issue warrants additional reading by compliance and medical staffs.

The NCAA goes on to indicate that 8 varieties of the water constitute no potential hazard and can be provided free to athletes. However, three cannot be given free to a student athlete because they contain substances that make the water an "extra benefit" (but the athlete could purchase the water on their own.)

Lastly, two of the varieties, "Energy" and "Rescue" contain caffeine and/or guarana seed extract that could result in a positive drug test under certain conditions. According to the release, "an average sized healthy man would have to drink ten 20 oz. bottles of Vitaminwater Energy or Rescue within several hours of competition to reach the level that could potentially create a positive NCAA urine test." Obviously smaller athletes would have to drink less.

Trying to educate about which of these varieties is permissible (the graphic shows how similar many of these products are in appearance) will complicate educational efforts around substance abuse as well as prompt questions about appropriate hydration for athletes. It also points out the challenges of even the most well conceived corporate sponsorship since the brand will receive prominent placement behind the benches at the 2009 Men's and Women's Basketball Championships and the Final Four. Many will thirst for clarity. Dasani anyone?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Athletic budget cuts continue

Additional information continues to come about the budget adjustments being considered throughout college athletics. Earlier postings can be found on February 6 and February 3 as well as a two part series of possible solutions on January 24 and January 22. Here's the latest:

  • Minnesota - Although operating in the black, University President Robert Bruininks has instructed Athletic Director Joel Maturi not to extend any coaching contracts (including the head football coach) or to provide any pay increases to staff.

  • Fresno State - Coming off its best year in department history, capped by a national championship in baseball but a year in which a $1.9 million deficit was accumulated, the department is now facing an additional $1.2 million shortfall. All revenue streams (tickets, gifts, corporate sponsorship, etc.) to the department are down. Despite the economic situation, the department added women's lacrosse and reinstated swimming and diving this year to comply with Title IX.

  • New Mexico - University instituting voluntary furloughs and hiring freeze. The University is also adding a surcharge to athletic tickets to pay for academic support services for athletes.
Check back regularly for more updates.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Athletic budget cuts continue

Following up on an earlier post about budget cuts in the nation's athletic departments, here are the latest announcements about athletic programs pulling back and adjusting to reduced funding. The full article can be accessed by clicking the link.

  • Nicholls State - $150,000 cut to be implemented by end of fiscal year (June 30)- reducing travel for spring teams, scheduling additional guarantee games in football and basketball, hiring freeze including women's soccer head coach position (vacant since November).

  • University of North Carolina - Considering reducing team travel and travel squad sizes.

  • James Madison University - Facing 10% cut on a $26 Million budget - Considerations include leaving open positions unfilled, elimination of staff travel, less expensive hotels, bus travel instead of flying, and considering additional guarantee games in football and basketball.

  • Louisiana State University - Louisiana State system facing possible layoffs of 1900 faculty and staff members.

  • Georgia - In an example of an athletic department funding the educational mission, athletic department to donate $6 million to the University's general fund to offset loss of state funding.

  • Missouri - Shifting air travel from charters to commercial air, reducing out of season competition, sleeping three student athletes to a hotel room instead of two, hiring freeze for non-essential personnel, reducing television advertising, reducing overtime.

Check back in the near future for more updates about on-going budget related articles from around the nation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Athletic Budget Cuts: Just the tip of the iceberg?

As every facet of society looks to save money during this challenging economic climate, the string of bad news about declining athletic budgets is coming fast and furious. And as bad as it currently is, it doesn't appear that the worst has even unfolded yet. An earlier article about Stanford was among the first and most notable. followed up with in-depth suggestions about institutional cost savings as well as conference and NCAA suggestions. In order to help you keep up with the latest, here is a list of links with a brief summary about what is happening around the nation. Each link will take you directly to a more in depth article.

  • Florida State - Considering a 10% budget cut, amounting to over $5 million. Also examining reductions in tutoring, shifting from charter flights to charter buses, and cancellation of league swimming meets.

  • Dartmouth - 15% budget cut - discussions ongoing.

  • Albany - 10% budget cut ($1.3 million).

  • East Tennessee State - 10% cut ($600,000) - Eliminating media guides, cutting recruiting, as well as cutting apparel and shoe allocations.

  • Ohio State - ($1.4 million) - Reducing meal money allocations, coaches are now sharing rooms on road trips, and the elimination of overtime pay.

  • Northern Arizona - 5% reduction as well as criticism about the value of athletics in general.

  • Louisiana State - No raises and considering staffing cuts.

  • Nevada - 10% cut including a 6% salary reduction.

These are just a few examples of the stories unfolding nationwide. Ultimatesportsinsider has been able to find one lone bright spot amidst the wreckage - Nebraska. More updates to come. Check back regularly and feel free to share information that you come across.