Athletics Dept. ups its budget by 11.9 percent over two years

Monday, January 30, 2006

Southeast's spending on football is still last in the OVC; men's basketball spending has climbed to the middle of the pack.

The Southeast Missouri State football and men's basketball programs had nowhere to go but up to compete financially with Ohio Valley Conference schools in some areas after the 2002-03 school year.

That year, the university ranked last in operational expenses for the two highest-profile programs.

Data filed with the federal government for the 2004-05 school year may leave Redhawks fans with mixed emotions, although help appears to be on the way.

Southeast increased spending in athletics 11.9 percent from 2003 to 2005, according to reports filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education and posted on the department's Web site in November. The university spent $6.88 million on athletics in 2004-05, equaling the department's revenue for that year.

"When we can make it through the year without a deficit, we're very happy," Southeast athletic director Don Kaverman said. "It's a challenge at our level. If we can live within our means, it's a success story."

The department's increase included 19.6 percent growth in the operational expenses. In a July 2004 report by the Southeast Missourian, Kaverman said a team's operating expense budget -- primarily consisting of recruiting, travel and equipment -- was perhaps the most important financial aspect for each coach.

The Southeast Missourian report that year found Southeast had ranked last in operating expenses among the OVC scholarship football programs and men's basketball programs. The university ranked high in spending on women's sports -- leading the OVC in overall expenditures on women's programs and ranking second in operating expenses. Women's basketball was third that year in operating expenses.

But Southeast's increased spending for 2004-05 may leave diehard Redhawks football fans scratching their heads.

The school still ranked last on spending for operational expenses for football. Southeast spent $104,251 in the 2004-05 school year, a 6.6 percent increase from 2002-03 -- but a drop from 2003-04 -- that still left the school ninth among the nine OVC scholarship programs. Southeast's operating budget for football was $111,508 in 2003-04.

"It's important to look at that in context. When you pick a number out of a report, it can give you a false impression," Kaverman said. "Overall, I think our football program is funded competitively within the OVC. Our salaries are very competitive."

Kaverman acknowledged that every effort is being made to make Southeast's football program as financially competitive as possible within the OVC. The university hired a new coach, Tony Samuel, in December to replace Tim Billings, who resigned near the end of a 2-9 campaign.

Kaverman said the football program -- as did all of Southeast's athletic programs -- received a financial upgrade from increased university student activities fees that will pump about 2.2 million dollars into athletics over the next five years, including about $146,000 for the 2005-06 school year.

"That will help us significantly," Kaverman said. "Football got a pretty good shot in the arm this year. We increased their [operations] budget by about 18 percent.

"Now, was that enough? Probably not. We need to increase it more. We will address it with the new staff, and I'm sure we will increase it."

The men's basketball program moved into the middle of the OVC pack with an 85 percent increase in operating expenses from $67,451 to $124,844. Southeast's 2002-03 figure had ranked last and was below even the Southeast women's basketball operating expenses for that year.

"It was a conscious decision to provide them more funding, specifically for recruiting," Kaverman said. "We also addressed some personnel issues [relating to staff salaries], and to allow the players to be here in the summer to take classes."

Kaverman said that, although men's basketball had been financially behind other OVC programs for several years, that was out of necessity due to the financial hardship the university as a whole experienced.

"The entire university struggled, not just athletics," Kaverman said. "We were basically trying to tread water in some dark financial days, when higher education was in trouble

"It's important for people to understand that we're highly dependent on university funding. When the university gets cut, we all get cut. We all took our lumps. Academic programs were cut, we cut a sport [men's golf]."

Kaverman said men's basketball, like football, also received a significant financial upgrade regarding operational expenses for 2005-06 from the athletic windfall relating to increased university student activities fees.

It's all music to the ears of Southeast men's basketball coach Gary Garner, whose team appears headed toward its fourth losing record in the past five seasons -- following a three-year stretch during which it went 62-28 and achieved the program's first NCAA Division I tournament berth.

Garner said significantly more recruiting money has made a major impact for the Redhawks, even though it is not showing up in this season's record.

"I know the university was in a really tough financial situation, but having so little money to recruit with really affected our program," Garner said. "You can't make up for that in one year, but you look at the recruits we've brought in. We've got Brandon Foust, Mike Rembert, Johnny Hill for next year; we've got [injured] David Johnson coming back; we've signed two outstanding players for next year [high school seniors Roderick Pearson and JaJuan Maxwell], who are probably the two best freshmen we've signed since I've been here; and we'll probably sign some more players."

Foust and Rembert are touted transfers who are practicing with the Redhawks this season but cannot participate in games under NCAA transfer rules. They are expected to have an impact next year, as is Hill, a freshman who is attending Southeast this year and will join the program next season.

"Without the money, you just can't get in on enough quality players -- and bring enough kids in for visits -- to give yourself a chance to sign the players you need to compete, because at this level you rarely sign your top choices, since they're being recruited by a lot of good programs," Garner said. "Having more money to recruit with has really helped us, and I think you're going to see our program getting back to where it was a few years ago when we were fighting for OVC championships."

Baseball remained Southeast's healthiest high-profile program with an operating budget of $105,729 that ranked second in the OVC. The figure was less than 1 percent lower than the 2002-03 spending that ranked the baseball program first in the conference.

The financial state of the baseball program is largely due to the fundraising efforts of coach Mark Hogan, said Kaverman.

While all of Southeast's coaches have been able to raise funds -- something Kaverman said is crucial -- Hogan has been especially successful in that area, because his actual operating budget allocated by the university would place it toward the bottom of the OVC.

"Coaches have become fund raisers, not just here but everywhere," Kaverman said. "Our coaches are all very good at it. They spend a lot of time with it, and not only do they raise a lot of money, it's a great way to interact with the public."

The Southeast women's basketball program remained in the top half of the league for operating expenses, though it slid to fifth in the OVC for 2004-05.

Southeast was third in the OVC on expenditures for women's athletics with a little over $2 million spent last year.

Among OVC schools with scholarship football programs, Southeast had the best ratio of men's and women's scholarships in 2004-05, with 45 percent of the student aid going to female athletes. The previous year, Southeast had given 43 percent of its athletic student aid to women.

"It's a challenge to fund it at that level, but it's something we're very proud of," Kaverman said of Southeast's attention to women's athletics.

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