Student fee increase bolsters athletics budget

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

If Southeast Missouri State's high-profile athletic teams are able to turn the corner soon, they will owe a debt of gratitude to the students.

The athletic department's spending increases are being helped along by a five-year escalation in student fees endorsed by the student government in 2005. The fee increases included funds for the aquatics center and other areas as well athletics.

"I think most students just see it as a fee, but some people don't know what department it's going for," said Leni Fluegge, the student representative to the Board of Regents.

"When it's fully implemented, it will have added over $750,000 to the [athletics] budget over five years," said Kathy Mangels, vice president of finance and administration for Southeast Missouri State.

The athletics portion of the budget proposal approved Tuesday by the Board of Regents included $791,900 of designated revenue from student fees in addition to a $291,325 one-time university commitment on top of $4.8 million in institutional commitment.

The athletics budget for 2008-09 stands at $7.7 million, a 10.5 percent increase over the previous year.

The university likely will spend significantly more than that. The department's revenue and expenses for both 2005-06 and 2006-07 — the most recent data available — topped $7.5 million in both years, although the proposed budgets did not exceed $7 million.

"This is a starting budget," Mangels said. "The actual expenditures are always a lot different because you can't anticipate everything and then you have to find funding sources to go along with that.

"Whether it's the university putting more money in or they have additional revenue, at the end of the day, athletics and every other department at the university has to get covered."

Athletics is getting covered each year by a larger amount from the student fees, which are on a path of escalation from $1.38 per credit hour designated for athletics in 2004-05 to $5.13 in 2009-10. The increase, which was supported 23-3 by a vote of the student government in 2005, is being phased in over the span, while the university also has accelerated the amount of money earmarked for athletics with one-time adjustments. With additional fees that have been approved in recent years, the student fee structure will rise from $10.70 per credit hour in 2004-05 to $25.70 in 2009-10, Mangels said.

According to data provided by the university for the review of the athletics program by Carr Sports Associates, student fees accounted for $446,660 of a $7.6 million budget in 2004-05 and will account for $1.06 million of a projected $8.57 million budget in 2009-10, when the phase-in schedule concludes.

The Board of Regents in May approved using some of the fees immediately in athletics on a one-time basis to help cover some of the proposals recommended in the review, mostly in areas to address Title IX concerns.

"I did notice that a larger amount than I expected goes to athletics," Fluegge said, "but a lot of our [admissions] recruiting and student diversity is due to athletics, and it might also get Southeast's name out to other portions of the country."

Visibility is helped by wins. While Southeast has made NCAA postseason appearances in recent years in women's soccer, women's basketball and gymnastics, and has gained notice with success in track and field, the football and men's basketball teams have been mired in losing seasons.

Southeast football has had two winning seasons since joining the Division I ranks in 1991, and is 7-15 in two seasons under Tony Samuel. The men's basketball program has had only one winning season in the last seven (2004-05) and is 23-39 in two years under Scott Edgar.

"I think at any school — whether it's a grade school, high school, higher education — a winning team is always preferred," said Fluegge, who added that players in Samuel's football program also have had improvements with community involvement. "They're focused on more than winning, but it's a little more about community also. But I think people always prefer winning teams, no matter what school it is."

All of the programs are expected to receive additional operating money for 2008-09 — an increase of $20,000 will bring football's operating expenses to $215,073, the largest chunk of the pie, while men's basketball will receive a $21,000 boost to $181,000. Third on the list is women's basketball, which will receive a $28,000 boost to $115,000 and is expected to see the largest increase in its overall budget.

"That's good news," said John Ishee, whose program has been in postseason play in both years he has coached the program.

Operating expenses include equipment, uniforms and travel costs, the last of which likely will be a bigger drain on the budget in 2008-09 than it was last year.

The total budget increase of nearly $57,000 for the women's basketball program will include an elevation in salary for the program's third assistant.

"I think that position is vital to our growth," Ishee said. "If you've got someone with experience, they can do tasks that myself and the other two assistants have had to do."

In all, the women's programs are receiving an additional $110,000 for salaries, which will include the addition of part-time assistant coaches in four sports: soccer, softball, gymnastics and volleyball. The positions, recommended in the Carr report, were not added to the employees listing for the department and were not included in published reports Tuesday that said the department will grow from 47.875 full-time employees to 51.375.

"For this first year, what they've actually ended up doing is bringing on some temp folks instead of full-time because they've had some students who graduated," Mangels said. "The dollars are in the budget, but they're not in the FTE numbers."

The soccer program on Monday made the first hire of the group, for instance, by adding Lindsay Pickering, who completed her eligibility in the fall.

The $50,000 in facilities expenses also green-lighted in May — which cover a relocation within Parker Gym for the gymnastics team, tennis court repairs and safety adjustments for soccer at Houck Stadium — did not appear in the athletics budget, Mangels said. They are being paid for in another part of the university budget.

The university is assuming continued growth in event ticket sales, projecting revenue of $306,000. The most recent university data showed revenue of $293,265 in 2006-07, which was a $30,000 increase from the previous year, which marked the final campaigns for football under Tim Billings and men's basketball under Gary Garner.

Carr's report did not project Southeast to climb past $305,000 in annual ticket revenue until 2011-12.

"You always want to be optimistic," Mangels said.

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