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Athletic task force issues report

The Committee on Institutional Efficiency (CIE) Intercollegiate Athletics Task Force released its final report at last week’s faculty senate meeting.

All but one of task force’s 13 voting members approved the report, with the 13th abstaining from voting altogether. While the task force reached a consensus on most of the conclusions and recommendations, the report includes both majority and dissenting opinions.

The report addresses three primary questions. The first is whether UMKC should continue to have Intercollegiate Athletics and what level of subsidy for the department should come from general revenues.

The task force recommends that UMKC should continue to have Intercollegiate Athletics, citing a “general agreement that Intercollegiate Athletics has been underutilized as a strategic asset” compared to its costs.

According to the report, intercollegiate operations have operated with a budget deficit for several years. Members of the task force agree this deficit is not the result of over-staffing, concluding the department is “well managed and, if anything, thin.”

Rather, the report credits the deficit to sub-par revenues from sources, including ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, private donors and student athletic fees. The “extraordinarily high travel cost” stemming from the WAC conference, which has increased by 30 percent since 2013, also contributes to the deficit.

The task force recommends a $3-4 million cap on investments from general revenues. It argues the $1,225,000 earned from student athletic fees is reasonable, and any increase should follow the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Adjustment. The student body and the board of curators should approve an increase in student athletic fees beyond the CPI adjustment.

Three task members believe that if an extra increase in student athletic fees is put to a vote by the student body, an option to eliminate athletic fees altogether should appear alongside it. Three other members strongly disagree with such a ballot.

The second question addressed in the report, whether UMKC should remain in NCAA Division I or consider switching conferences or dropping divisions, did not result in a definitive recommendation.

According to the report, task force members felt it premature to offer any decisive conclusions. Most members agree UMKC should remain a NCAA Division I school if UMKC devises a sustainable, long-term plan that meets the cap on general revenue investments without using donations that otherwise would go to academic investments.

The report cites an ongoing external study, suggesting it will help decision makers better understand the cost and benefits of remaining in the NCAA.

The third and final question addressed in the report is, if it is determined UMKC should remain in the NCAA, should the school consider dropping to division II or III? Members of the task force agree that if UMKC cannot devise a plan for remaining a NCAA Division I school, it should consider dropping two divisions.

In the report, task force members Sullivan Read and Gerald Wyckoff argue that despite being in Division I for 25 years, “these perceived advantages have yet to produce the kind of financial benefits anticipated by other members of the task force.”

Read and Wyckoff express skepticism that the potential benefits of remaining in Division I outweigh the costs. Beyond financial considerations, Read and Wyckoff recommend decision makers consider other urban-based research institutions, where students in Division II or III experience very similar experiences to their Division I counterparts.

Other task force members Kenneth Ferguson and Jimmy Adegoke lay out an argument for remaining in Division I, claiming that during the first few years of UMKC’s Division I status; the school did not utilize its success and effectively reap potential benefits in private donations, out of state enrollment and student support of athletics.

In addition to answering the three questions informing the task force’s research, the report also recommends the school consider improving participation in intramural athletics.

The report mentions the growing feeling on campus that Swinney Recreation Center is no longer adequate, and recommends decision makers consider factors like an extension to Swinney and the adequacy of current athletic facilities.

With the task force’s report finished, student and faculty now wait to see how UMKC’s administrators will utilize the information to address concerns over athletics spending.

The complete report can be found on umkc.edu/facultysenate.

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