A closer look into the athletics department budget

UW-Eau Claire’s athletics department to receive $950,000 for the 2014-2015 school year

MONEY ON MY MIND: An increase in allocations allow for upgrades campus wide, including the restored bleachers in the McPhee Physical Education Center. © 2014 Nick Erickson, The Spectator

MONEY ON MY MIND: An increase in allocations allow for upgrades campus wide, including the restored bleachers in the McPhee Physical Education Center. © 2014 Nick Erickson, The Spectator

Story by Nick Erickson and Steve Fruehauf

On Feb. 17, Student Senate allocated the UW-Eau Claire athletics department $950,000 for the 2014-2015 school year, a $38,000 increase from their $912,000 budget this school year.

That sum of money was the second-highest slice of the annual student segregated fee budget, behind only Student Health Services at $1.3 million.

Retiring Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon said the athletics department requested more funds from Student Senate in order to garner  more money for the evolving basic operations it takes to run successful and competitive programs.

A piece of the $38,000 will also go towards spending down the about $90,000 deficit the athletics department has currently.

“A lot of this is keeping with operational costs,” Kilgallon said. “We do this every year. We work with city facilities, we let the students know that we will probably be coming back from special allocations to cover the current year.”

The athletics department’s allocation, a part of the 2014-2015 Organized Activities Budget, passed Senate unopposed.

Student Body President Bryan Larson said Senate has traditionally supported athletics because of the potential notoriety it brings tocampus.

“Athletics helps build school spirit,” Larson said. “… Also, it’s a way to involve ourselves in the community and have events that people from all over want to attend.”

Kilgallon said the reason athletics needs higher funding than other organizations is, for starters, the sheer number of people involved. There are 22 varsity sports with more than 500 Blugold student-athletes, not to mention the coaches and administrators in the system.

Along with that, equipment and facility maintenance costs are a crucial part of any athletics department success. Kilgallon said while most of these costs are minor, there are so many sports at Eau Claire that it eventually adds up.

Even though athletics didn’t receive the exact amount they wanted, the department still fundraises about $250,000 each school year as well as revenue through different event costs. This money is then put back into the athletics department’s bank and is used largely for travel expenses.

Larson said while the athletics department goes under the same scrutiny and evaluation process as every other organization appearing on the Feb. 17 bill, the fact the department can bring in revenue outside of Senate allocations is a big selling point for granting more funds.

“The thing about athletics is that it does do a very good job of fundraising on its own, which I think is one of the main reasons students have continued to support our allocation,” Larson said.

The Blugolds fall near the median in allocations, compared to other WIAC schools.

One school making a big commitment to athletics is UW-Whitewater, a school that has already won three national championships this school year alone. Kilgallon said the Warhawks spent $5.2 million on their department last time he checked.

Whitewater Interim Director of Athletics Amy Edmonds said the department receives funding through the school’s student government and segregated fee committees, and the athletic success has led to more private donations.

Edmonds said the department made a big push recently to get students on campus interested in Warhawk athletics, and the results have led to more success for Whitewater on the field of competition.

“With our students and faculty collectively, if we didn’t have them understanding and embracing becoming a Warhawk, there’s no way we could do what we’re doing,” Edmonds said. “If you don’t have that pride from the institution, faculty, staff, then you have a lot more hurdles to overcome in order to make anybody feel there’s a value to the athletics department.”

Eau Claire is in the process of building up school support for athletics with efforts to reach out in both the university and community.

While Kilgallon and Larson both said they wish more could be done, efforts to grow relationships between Senate and athletics, as well as the student body as a whole, are improving.

Kilgallon, who is winding down his last season as director of athletics, said he is always grateful of student support of Blugold athletics.

“We have been very fortunate,” Kilgallon said. “We are obviously very dependent on student support and I know when I got here 10 years ago we were probably getting about, I’m estimating, $450,000, so obviously the students have been very good to us.”