Athletics finds funds despite cuts

By Rich Carlson

The athletic department is prepared to meet NIU President John La Tourette’s $500,000 budget reduction despite last semester’s withdrawal of a proposal to increase student fees.

The proposal would have increased student fees $4.01 per credit hour or $60.15 a semester for those students taking 15 credit hours. The $500,000 targeted for reallocation is equivalent to 40 percent of the athletic department’s budget. The fee increase would have made up 38 percent of that reallocation.

“Athletics has a plan and will meet the target of $500,000,” said Eddie Williams, vice president of Finance and Planning.

Neither Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell nor Williams could give details of the plan because it has “not been finalized.” However, both said there are no plans for future student fee increase proposals.

The athletic department will have to reduce its budget by $500,000 in fiscal year 1994 as part of a five-year plan to phase out income fund support which is generated solely by the university through sources such as tuition.

“Outside of any consideration, the pressure is on athletics,” Williams said.

O’Dell said the athletic department would be able to make up the $500,000 without seriously cutting programs.

“We can’t reduce any sports,” he said. “Nobody wants to reduce programs. We’ve developed quality athletic programs that people are proud of and that is important.”

However, O’Dell’s comments contrast those he made in February when the fee increase proposal still was being considered. In the Feb. 15 issue of The Northern Star O’Dell was quoted as saying, “Without increased funds you would have to make drastic cuts in our athletic program.”

O’Dell now denies ever making the Feb. 15 comment and would not say whether the withdrawal of the student fee proposal was a big setback.

“I really can’t answer that. You’ve put me between a rock and a hard place,” he said.

Even though O’Dell refused to give details of the athletic department’s plan to make up the reallocated funds, he did say several options are being looked at including reducing expenditures and increasing revenue generated from gate receipts.

“We’ve reduced the budget in little areas like games management,” he said, adding, “our revenue-generating sports are going to have to generate more revenue.”

The athletic department is looking at football to help bring in additional money through its guaranteed account, which is the money received by the football team when it travels and competes at other schools.

“Football is a critical player in meeting the reduction,” O’Dell said.

Another source used to generate more money might be the general public.

“We are exploring charging admission to the general public for volleyball, softball, baseball and both men’s and women’s soccer,” he said.

O’Dell said changing divisions is not a practical idea, and the burden of supporting athletics would again fall on the shoulders of the institution.

“There is no middle ground today,” he said. “You either have an athletic program or you don’t.”