In response to growing budget restraints and concerns over the university’s subsidy of the athletic department, UMKC intercollegiate athletics managed to decrease its operating budget by 9 percent. They also reduced the general revenues subsidy by $1,300,000 for this fiscal year.
These immediate responses include another round of budget reductions that could potentially free up another $500,000 in next year’s budget. UMKC will emphasize generating additional revenue through ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and donor gifts.
While these immediate responses to fiscal constraints help make institutional support for athletics more sustainable in the short term, the faculty senate has their eyes set on addressing concerns about athletics spending for the long run.
Interim Chancellor and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer is determined to find the solution that will best suit the university.
“I want UMKC to be the strongest possible institution it can be in every area,” said Bichelmeyer. “We are faced with fiscal challenges and we have to ask if we are spending our dollars to best address our priorities.”
“We are spending significant money on athletics that could be spent on the academic core so we need to answer ‘What’s the right amount of money to spend on athletics?’, ‘Where does the money come from?’ and ‘What’s the best strategy and return on our investment?’”
Anthony Luppino, a law professor and director of entrepreneurship programs at the Bloch School, and Athletics Director Carla Wilson spent the past year quietly and diligently compiling data and collecting materials to answer those questions, as co-chairs of the CIE (Committee on Institutional Efficiency) Athletics Task Force.
“The task force originally started as one of a few projects looking at various operations and budgets,” said Luppino. “Then it evolved from there. It really got going in earnest last spring. A lot of the heavy lifting was done last semester.”
The CIE Athletics Task Force 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 second is whether UMKC should drop to a lower division or continue as a NCAA Division I. If we should drop, then what is the best fit and why? And lastly, if the school decides to remain in Division I, should switching conferences be considered?
“We’ve looked at all kinds of data,” said Luppino. “Not only about UMKC, but about different schools and different options for athletics. We’ve been comparing different costs and benefits of different programs and divisions.”
Luppino plans to issue the task force’s report to faculty senators at the next meeting on Sept. 9.
It is too early to disclose the kind of recommendation the task force will propose, but Luppino confirmed the task force will be issuing their report next Tuesday and intend to make some suggestions.
For students and faculty concerned about the future of athletics at UMKC, answers could be coming sooner than expected.
An external study from a retired athletics director will additionally advise the university about the opportunities and challenges facing UMKC athletics.
According to Bichelmeyer, this study, supported by UMKC’s foundation, will outline some possible strategies. It also aims to identify if the university should stay in Division I or move down to Division II or III, and the various pros and cons of each scenario.
“Our athletic programs are very successful and I know our student athletes are scholars first and bring a lot of energy to the campus and represent us well. I appreciate all they contribute to the institution and recognize they are good, solid, UMKC citizens,” said Bichelmeyer. “We will be spending the fall looking for the answer of what is best.”