The University of Akron’s athletics budget has long been a source of strife on campus, with faculty and administrators squaring off over how best to spend university dollars.
That debate reached a new level this week, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, as the faculty union called for the Zips to move from Division I to Division II as a way to help mitigate cuts in other areas.
The University is seeking to reduce its overall budget by a reported $65 million, and negotiations on subjects such as faculty layoffs between the Akron American Association of University Professors and university administration are ongoing.
The men’s golf and cross country and women’s tennis programs were cut earlier this year, netting the athletic department more than $4 million in savings, but the general fund supplied a $26 million subsidy to the athletic department last year.
“For years, the University has disinvested in academics while simultaneously losing millions on its athletics programs,” a position paper released by the union said. “In the spirit of shared sacrifice, we believe that it’s time to move to [a] responsible and sustainable model of funding for athletics.”
Switching into a lower division would reduce the university’s obligations to meet certain thresholds regarding scholarship expenditures and ticket sales, but university leadership pushed back on the notion that switching is something that can be easily done.
In a response to the position paper, the university sent out a communication arguing that leaving Division I would also mean departing the Mid-American Conference, which would require upfront fees and contract payouts in excess of $18 million, and would ultimately result in an annual net loss of $5 million in revenues.
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