Athletics faces budget deficit

By Brian Slupski

NIU’s athletic department is $74,715 over budget; however, Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell said there is no cause for concern yet.

The departments’ budget woes stem, in part, from the reallocation of $500,000 out of its budget and into the academic area of the university.

“This is not the first year we’ve projected a deficit,” O’Dell said.

He said the deficit is based only on the first quarter of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. In the past, the department has been able to make up any early deficits by the end of the fiscal year.

“If we were in the third quarter and had a deficit like this, we might have to put some restrictions on spending,” O’Dell said, adding, “I have no concern we’ll reach $74,000.”

However, the department’s broader budget picture looks bleak with $800,000 scheduled to be reallocated out of athletics over the next two years.

Some athletic programs could be in jeopardy in the coming years, unless the department is able to increase its revenue, O’Dell said.

However he also said it would not be a women’s program because of federal equity and proportionality laws.

Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments states that schools which receive federal funds must have equity between male and female sports programs. This includes spending on coaches’ salaries, transportation, promotions and media guides.

O’Dell said athletics is in a difficult situation because there is an expectation for a continuation and even a build-up of programs, with a shrinking budget.

Initially the department hoped to compensate for the reallocations by increasing students’ fees, a plan that was dropped last year due to mounting student opposition.

O’Dell said he was unaware of any fee increase proposal for this year.

“(A fee increase) has not been discussed by me or other members of the administration as far as I know,” O’Dell said.

He saidthe department has been looking for ways to offset the budget reallocations through its revenue generating sports.

As an example, O’Dell pointed to next year’s Oklahoma State football game, which he said must generate $150,000.

But O’Dell said he wanted to avoid having NIU teams playing games purely for money.

He described the athletic department as a microcosm of the university, saying the department “can’t be all things to all people.”

“Sometimes people develop the attitude that all programs have to be competitive at the national level. This is not possible, you have to have focus on revenue generating sports,” he said.

O’Dell said the department evaluates programs, and tries to offer programs that are the most sensible to NIU.

The reallocations follow an Illinois Board of Higher Education recommendation that public university athletic programs should get off the state dole. NIU’s program was receiving about $2.4 million through the state. All of this will eventually be reallocated away.

“(Athletics) maybe living a little bit in the edge,” O’Dell said.