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alumni want football saved
University president not optimistic
By RYAN OLSON
The Daily Mining Gazette
March 24, 2003
HOUGHTON Michigan Tech Universitys football
alumni are hopeful the program can be saved from the chopping block,
but MTU President Curt Tompkins isnt optimistic.
Im trying to be a realist, Tompkins
said. I dont think its realistic to expect those
of us football supporters and I count myself among them
to be able to raise $10 million in a short amount of time.
Tech Athletic Director Rick Yeo announced last week
that the 82-year-old football program would be cut as part of an
effort to cope with a 10 percent cut in state funding for higher
education. Yeo and Tompkins said only a $10 million endowment can
The move caught most people by surprise, including
former players who are angry that they werent consulted.
Duane Williams, a former offensive tackle who graduated
in 1973, said a meeting between alumni representatives and MTU administration
is in the works. He and other members of the MTU Football Advisory
Council declined to speculate on the chances the program can be
We dont want to build too much hope and
put someone between a rock and a hard spot, Williams, of Crystal
Tompkins said its possible the program can be
resurrected after a few seasons.
We might do that, but I cant promise were
going to do that, he said.
A $10 million endowment fund would have to earn about
$350,000 per year to fund the program, Yeo said. Cutting football,
he added, was the only option other than gutting the athletic department.
Still, former football players are fuming. Williams
said canceling the program so abruptly is unfair to the 100 players
on the team. His son, Todd Williams, played on Techs defensive
line last season.
I dont think the administration is realizing
how many people are involved in this because in the last three days,
the phone has been ringing, Williams said.
Former players recalled other fund-raising efforts
to save football, but Yeo said circumstances were different when
backers helped save the program in the early 1980s.
We were living on a shoestring and we werent
in the (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) back then,
Tompkins said its unrealistic to try to raise
$350,000 each year, given the programs fund-raising history.
He added the athletic department cant recruit good players
while telling them that the program might end at any time.
You cannot run a competitive athletic program
on that basis, Tompkins said.
Yeo said spreading the cuts across various sports
is not realistic. Cutting several teams is impossible, he said,
because the NCAA requires universities to field a minimum of five
mens and five womens teams to be eligible in Division
II. Before this week, MTU had about 300 athletes participating in
seven mens and six womens teams.
Tompkins said the decision to cut the team was made
after Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced on March 5 that higher education
funding would be cut an additional 6.5 percent to help eliminate
a projected $1.7 billion state budget deficit. In addition to a
3.5 percent cut earlier in the school year, MTU will lose 10 percent
of its state appropriation in the 2003-04 fiscal year about
$5.6 million in a $116 million general fund budget.
After the governors announcement, administrators
asked Techs units and divisions to prepare plans to cut 10
percent from their budgets next year. Units were asked to develop
plans for additional cuts of 7 percent in 2004-05 and 5 percent
Tompkins said departments made permanent changes that
protect the universitys core programs.
Were looking for permanent structural
changes and to take at least a three-year look in terms of the amount
of dollars well have to take out of the base budget,
Yeo said events moved quickly after Granholms
When it gets to cutting like this, you have
to look and make the best decision you possibly can, and I think
you need to move swiftly, he said.
Former quarterback Mike Scally, of Boulder, Colo.,
said Tompkins told alumni last month in the Denver area that football
would survive the current budget crisis. Scally, a 1973 MTU graduate,
said he disapproves of the all or nothing approach to
funding the program.
Tompkins said he believed football would survive when
he met with the alumni.
I really believed that we wouldnt have
to take the substantial cut in the general fund budget that we found
out that we were going to have to take, particularly the impact
on athletics, Tompkins said.
Heres a look at the total cost
of running a few of Michigan Tech Universitys intercollegiate
athletic teams in 2002-03 and how much of Techs general
fund money is spent on each. The figures include salaries
and operating costs, but dont include scholarships.
M/W Nordic ski*
|Source: MTU Athletics
* The figures for nordic ski and cross country dont
include wages and benefits because Gary Nichols coaches six
sports mens and womens nordic ski, cross country and
track and field.
Yeo said athletics will save about $350,000 a year
by eliminating football.
Athletics cost some $3.3 million this year, but the
department spends about $1.8 million from the general fund for things
such as services, supplies, expenses and salaries, wages and benefits.
About $1.5 million from financial aid is used to pay
for 68 full-time scholarships for student-athletes. Yeo said the
scholarships can be divided among multiple players on a team. Currently,
players with footballs 22 scholarships will continue to receive
them until graduation. Those scholarships likely will be given to
other mens teams as they become available, Yeo said.
The departments big-ticket general fund item
is football. MTU spends about $431,000 on the program. The total
budget of $497,000 accounts for about $66,000 in revenue, Yeo said.
Techs most costly program overall is Division I hockey
about $659,000 but the department spends only about $315,000
in general fund money each year because hockey generates substantial
People dont realize that not much general
fund money goes into our hockey program, Yeo said.
Techs least costly sports are mens and
womens cross-country running, with total general fund expenditures
For football, about $291,000 is spent on salaries
and benefits for Coach Bernie Anderson and his five assistant coaches.
Yeo said the department expects to save $210,000 in wages and benefits
because Anderson has been invited to remain on staff as a strength
and conditioning instructor.
By comparison, MTU spends about $190,000 for hockey
coaches salaries and benefits, according to Yeo. Hockey spends
about $69,000 in general funds for recruiting, compared to $27,000
In 12 years as Techs president, Tompkins said
he has almost always approved Yeos recommendations to improve
athletics, including increasing funding and supporting the football
teams bid to join a conference.
I think it would be very unfair to change my
behavior from basically concurring with the athletic director for
12 years and then turn around on this one decision, Tompkins
However, Williams said the national coverage of the
programs demise is giving MTU a black eye.
They can have the best engineering program in
the country, but theres more to college life than strictly
books, he said.
Tompkins agrees, to a point.
Anytime you eliminate any sport youre
going to impact visibility and image, but you could say that about
academic programs, Tompkins said.
He said cutting football was one of the most painful
decisions hes had to approve.
I tried to help Rick find some other things
to do and its not there, Tompkins said. You have
to put sentimentality aside.
On the Net:
MTU Athletics, http://www.athletics.mtu.edu