Athletics spending is hotly contested among faculty and administration amidst growing budget concerns. After a tense meeting just before spring break, the UMKC Faculty Senate pushed Chancellor Leo Morton to develop an effective strategy that addresses athletic spending and substantially reduces the university’s subsidy of the athletic department.
“No argument,” Morton said. “Institutional support for athletics at this university is higher than it should be, and it’s not sustainable.”
Morton laid out a working plan aimed at reducing the approximate $12 million in funding received by the athletic department each year from UMKC’s core budget.
After Morton’s presentation, many faculty members expressed concern that the chancellor had not included more drastic measures, including Kathy Krause, a professor representing the department of foreign languages and literatures.
“I am very disappointed,” Krause said. “We keep on being the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none…. That’s not responsible in my book.”
In a time when academics are under serious financial stress and no money from the core budget is invested in research, many senators expressed confusion regarding the university’s priorities.
“Athletics are a strategy,” Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said. “What are we trying to accomplish?”
Some faculty senate members proposed dropping to Division II or III. Another member suggested dropping athletics entirely and switching to club sports.
Although Morton proposed strategies to decrease the university’s subsidy of the athletic department, he made it clear this problem cannot be fixed by a single, simple solution. Morton also said UMKC students value the athletics program.
“We are committed to reduce institutional support by $1.1 million for 2018,” Morton said of his plan. “Our goal is to get it down to $6 million over the next four years.”
The initial $1.1 million would come from capping scholarships and compensation at about $3.5 million each. Morton’s ideas also include increasing student fees to nearly $15 a credit hour, capped at 12 hours, by 2022. This would be a nearly three-fold increase of the current student fee rate.
Some senate members protested against such a significant increase in student fees, arguing that many students are already unable to afford textbooks and some rely on the campus food pantry.
The faculty senate’s motion pushes the Chancellor to revisit his plan of how to quickly make UMKC athletics sustainable while meeting the core mission of the University.