College Sports: Lottery losses = shrinking athletic aid



WOU ATHLETIC BUDGET

BY THE NUMBERS

$4 million

-- Total athletic budget for Western Oregon.

$371,039

-- Estimate of expected lottery money lost by WOU under proposed cut.

9.3

-- Percent of funding lost to WOU's overall athletic budget.

WOU'S ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIP MONEY BREAKDOWN

Western Oregon's most current figure for total athletic student aid is $774,000. Of the Wolves' 375 total student-athletes, 261 receive athletic aid, though the average scholarship amount per athlete is about $3,000. No athletes are on a full athletic scholarship. Here's a breakdown of where that money comes from:

$300,000

-- From the state lottery. WOU acting athletic director Jon Carey said about $75,000 is spent on operating and miscellaneous costs, but the rest goes to scholarships.

$225,000

-- Western Foundation (Wolves Club, booster club auction, athletic director fundraising, sponorships, specific scholarships.

$170,000

-- Tuition waivers (from the school's General Fund).

$100,000

-- Coaches contribution made by specific sport-related fundraising efforts and designated contributions to specific sports.

Cutting sports is out of the question.

That's the belief of Western Oregon University acting athletic director Jon Carey, who returned to his former post in September after the exit of former AD, Daniel Hare.

"Cutting a sport would help a small amount, but not in the big picture," Carey said. "That's not an option."

Wait a minute. Why are we talking about cutting programs at WOU?

That's been one of the many fears of several of Oregon's smaller public universities since Gov. John Kitzhaber released his state budget proposal for 2013-15.

Jon Carey

Near the front of the 394-page document, Kitzhaber aims to make some major changes with just two sentences:

"The distribution of Lottery proceeds to the Oregon University System in support of intercollegiate athletics and scholarships is discontinued. The funds are redirected for other programs in the education outcome area."

What this means, exactly, is that lottery money that totaled $3.84 million this year will not be divided up for the athletic departments of the seven schools in the OUS: Oregon and Oregon State, Oregon Tech, Portland State, Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon and Western Oregon.

For Oregon and Oregon State, which boast athletic budgets of $87.9 and $56.6 million, respectively, this change won't hurt, much -- the lottery money represents about 1.1 and 1.6 percent of their budgets.

But for smaller schools with significantly smaller budgets -- Western's sits at around $4 million -- the loss of the lottery funds would be a major problem.

--

While the other small public colleges use the lottery funds for various department costs, WOU is very clear on what the majority of its money is used for:

Student-athlete scholarships.

And in the grand scheme of the NCAA Division II league the Wolves compete in -- the Great Northwest Athletic Conference -- those dollars aren't much to begin with: WOU, with $774,000, ranks dead last in the 10-team league in student athletic aid.

To put things in perspective, Alaska Anchorage has the most available athletic aid at $1.88 million.

"Slightly more than $300,000 is earmarked for scholarships," Carey said of WOU's portion of the lottery funds, which he anticipated a $375,000 total for 2012-13.

"That money represents pretty close to 40 percent of our scholarship budget."

Of Western's 375 student athletes, Carey said 261 are receiving aid at an average of about $3,000 each.

"So those are pretty minimal scholarships," added Carey, who noted another factor that he sees on the books.

"Interestingly, to me at least, is that of our 375 athletes, 266 have either student loans or parent loans that are in their financial aid package.

"That amount is over $2.5 million total in this year alone -- about $9,600 a year on average -- so what we've done with our scholarships is to try to minimize their cost of attendance, reduce their reliance on loans. Any sort of hit to that is going to have a serious impact."

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Michael Feuling, Western's director of leadership giving and athletic development, already has a pretty tough job.

He's responsible for securing community sponsorships, leading the charge for the annual booster club (Wolves Club) auction, overseeing the Wolves Club and anything else related to donor relations.

In simple terms, he's responsible for making the athletic department money -- with most directed at athletic scholarships.

The loss of lottery funds would make it even harder.

"It would be tough to make that up - I'm not sure if we would be able to do that," Feuling said. "But we would continue to try to generate the revenue."

The booster club generated about $50,000 in donor money last year and the auction raised around $45,000 -- down $20,000 from the previous year.

Sponsorships have jumped over the past three years, starting at about $10,000 and growing to $22,000, but it's easy to see that these amounts aren't in the same league as the lottery total of $375,000.

"I think the administration and the coaches would have to look and try to find a way to keep what we call here `the championship experience' going for student-athletes.

"Whether it's coming up with new fundraising ideas or events, we're just going to have to focus on getting a little more creative."

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While the news of Kitzhaber's initial intentions is bad for small Oregon schools, it's not official, yet.

The state budget, like it always is, will be picked apart, tweaked and changed before the state legislature approves it, probably in June.

Knowing that, Carey has to continue to move forward as if the lottery money isn't going anywhere.

"We're in the process of awarding scholarship dollars right now," he said. "The majority of our sports award new scholarship dollars in early April -- new ones, not existing -- so we're going to have to operate under the assumption that it will come back, or if it won't come back, we'll have to figure out an internal solution of some sort."

That solution, however, most likely won't be Carey's problem, as WOU begins the process of hiring a new athletic director, with hopes of completion by the summer.

For Western's sake, I hope they can land someone that has the skills to combat what could be a big, big hit to the athletic program.

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Nicole Watkins is the sports editor at the Itemizer-Observer. She can be reached at 503-623-2373 or by email at nwatkins@polkio.com. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleWatkinsIO.



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