Some Question Institutional Support for Athletics

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When colleges and universities face budget shortfalls, sometimes questions arise surrounding athletics. While some schools have self-sufficient athletic departments, most get some support from the institution — which can be a hard thing to swallow for other communities on campus.

Take for example Western Kentucky University, where according to the Bowling Green Daily News budget cuts of more than $8 million are expected over the next fiscal year. That number is down from an initial target of more than $10 million, which was cut down following a Faculty Senate meeting last month.

The proposed cuts are being applied broadly — including $365,915 from athletics — but some within the campus community are questioning why the athletics department is receiving financial support to the tune of more than $16 million, even after the cuts.

“What are our priorities in this institution?” geology instructor Margaret Crowder asked at the Faculty Senate meeting.

In a statement to the Daily News, university president Timothy Caboni said “The entire university is sharing the burden of reduction targets, and that includes athletics. The reduction for athletics has been approximately $1.3 million over the past two years, and almost $2 million in the last four years.  Athletics has shared fully in the burden of reductions in the past two years and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect.”

Of course, smaller programs aren’t the only ones facing these kinds of issues.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the University of Kansas’ 2020 fiscal year budget includes a $120,000 cut in funding from the institution to the athletics department, a figure which represents an 8.3 percent reduction compared to the previous year.

In all, KU will spend approximately $1.33 million on supporting athletics in the upcoming fiscal year. The cuts are part of a larger plan to cut $20 million from the university’s budget.

At KU, there’s hope that instead of the institution supporting the athletics program the athletics program will be able to contribute to the academic institution — but things aren’t that way at WKU.

“This institution, WKU, has made a commitment to athletics, and there are a lot of people who enjoy it,” WKU provost Cheryl Stevens told the Daily News. “The community enjoys it, students enjoy it and it’s what we’re going to do and it’s not going to ever be taken off the table.”

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