Athletics Department’s Budget

Role of an Athletic Director

Rebecca Jones has thoroughly enjoyed her job as athletic director at a Division I FCS institution. She has always enjoyed the day-to-day activities of managing a $25 million athletic budget, overseeing 25 sport programs (well beyond the minimum 14 needed for NCAA Division I membership), and interacting with the 15 assistant and associate athletic directors. But when she came into work one spring Monday morning she knew some very disculty days were ahead of her that would test her managerial, financial, and communication skills.

At the lacrosse game on Saturday, the chancellor cornered Rebecca to let her know of an emergency meeting the state legislators had had the previous day. The governor was forwarding, with the legislators’ endorsement, a budget that called for a 10% reduction to the university’s budget starting July 1. The chancellor, in turn, told Rebecca that she would need to reduce the $25 million athletic budget by 10% (or $2.5 million). Word spread quickly of this impending budget cut, and there in her office early on this spring morning were three head coaches (men’s soccer, men’s swimming, and women’s volleyball). Rebecca has always employed an opendoor philosophy, encouraging any coach, student-athlete, student, or faculty member at the university to stop by and talk to her whenever he or she had a question or concern. Rebecca could tell by the faces of these three coaches that they were worried that their sport programs, and their jobs, would be eliminated as part of the budget reduction.

Rebecca invited the coaches into her office and began to listen to what they had to say. The men’s soccer coach was concerned that his was a low-profile sport and therefore easily expendable. The men’s swimming coach was concerned that even though he had been modestly successful over the years, the pool was in drastic need of repair—an expense the university could not afford—which he felt made the men’s swimming program a target for elimination. The women’s volleyball coach was concerned because of the high cost of volleyball (a fully funded sport at the university), with a huge potential savings possible by cutting just this one sport program. Also, volleyball was not a popular sport in the region and therefore was not drawing a lot of fan support.

As Rebecca was talking to the coaches, her administrative assistant interrupted to tell her that the local newspapers had been calling for a comment and that a local television station was camped outside the basketball arena interviewing coaches as they came to work. The administrative assistant overheard one of the questions being asked by the reporter: “Should the Division FCS football program, which has been running a deficit of between $1.3 million and $2.2 million per year over the past couple of years, be dropped completely or go nonscholarship?” Rebecca knew she had two initial concerns: one of an immediate nature, dealing with the media, and the second of a communication nature, regarding the coaches and administrators within the department. The chancellor asked her to submit a preliminary report in 2 weeks, so she had a little bit of time to address the bigger issue: What to do?


Questions for Discussion

1. Put yourself in Rebecca’s position. What is the first thing that you should do with regard to the media? With the coaches and other athletic department administrators?

2. What types of information and data does Rebecca need to collect to make a decision on how to handle cutting $2.5 million from the athletics department’s budget?

3. If you were Rebecca, would you involve anyone in the decision-making process or make the decision by yourself? If involving other people, who would they be, and why would they be an important part of the process?

4. What types of communication need to take place, and how would you go about communicating this information?

5. What are some potential solutions in terms of budget reduction? What are the possible ramifications surrounding these solutions?

6. If you choose to eliminate sport programs, what criteria would you use to determine which teams are eliminated?

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