Expected to be shielded from impending financial cuts at the University of Toledo is a department that spent almost $22 million in 2012: Athletics.
President Lloyd Jacobs, who on Monday unveiled his recommended budget for the 2014 fiscal year, defended against the appearance of favoritism and said athletics has made advancements in recent years to limit expenses. Among concessions was the elimination of 10½ full-time positions.
Additionally, some teams are operating without a complete coaching staff, while others have created ways to defray travel costs.
Those compromises apparently satisfied Jacobs, whose budget includes cuts to academics but wishes to shelter the athletic department and the 16 intercollegiate programs it houses.
Jacobs' proposed budget includes nearly $20 million less in expenditures than this year. Many of those cuts have come out of academics.
Earlier this year, administrators announced plans to cut between $14 million and $17 million from academic programs, including reductions in adjunct and visiting professors, elimination of positions through attrition, and an increase in teaching loads for full-time faculty.
“While it may be correct to say there will be few or no budget cuts proposed between 2013 and 2014, the fact is we took the athletic department down to the bare bones with careful re-engineering,” Jacobs said.
Overall salaries of athletics’ employees has dipped from about $4.9 million in 2009 to $4.5 million in 2013, a reduction that reflects a thinner department. The university eliminated 10½ positions since 2007 — including assistant baseball and softball coaches — and saved about $585,000. Additionally, the job of deputy athletic director was not filled after Mike Karabin retired on the final day of 2011.
Department spending has increased by about $1.3 million from 2009 to a projected $21.8 million in 2013 — growth linked to tuition increases. The university forked out $5.9 million in 2009 in scholarships to student-athletes and $7.1 million in 2013 — a difference of $1.2 million.
“If you compare 2009 to 2014, they have taken approximately the same amount of cuts as everybody else,” Jacobs said. “They just did it earlier in the process.”
Linda Rouillard, president of the faculty senate, believes athletics should sacrifice more.
“I applaud the academic success of our student-athletes, and I applaud their athletic successes, but I think there are some ancillary costs that could be reduced,” Rouillard said. “That would be a show of good faith that we’re all in this together.”
One such cost was eliminated a couple of years ago. The football team, which stays at an area hotel on the eve of home games, pays through private donations. The stays until a few years ago were budgeted costs.
Also, women’s golf coach Nicole Hollingsworth raised money to buy a van for team travel. The men’s basketball team took buses on an eight-day trip from Toledo to Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa before flying home.
Budgeting athletics is a tricky process, one made complicated by a series of unknowns.
For instance, the Rockets football team traveled to Boise in December for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a more costly venture than had they been invited to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. Additionally, bonuses attained by coaches for winning championships or their athletes achieving quality academic marks cannot be predicted.
In 2010, the university’s chief financial officer, David Dabney, determined athletics to be under-budgeted following consecutive years of surpassing projected expenses by more than $2 million. At the time Toledo’s athletic budget was the eighth-lowest in the 13-team Mid-American Conference. The following year, in 2011, the adjusted budget increased by more than $3 million.
“This is an organization of value,” Jacobs said of athletics. “They contributed early on, and they continue to contribute, both in terms of developing a lean organization and contributing to the stature and the brand of the institution.”
ALCOHOL SALES: The university, as expected, approved a measure to sell alcohol at home football and basketball games and is seeking approval from the state liquor control board. A response is expected this summer, according to athletic director Mike O’Brien. The university told The Blade last month it is interested in sanctioning alcohol sales at home athletic contests as a way to generate revenue.
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