alumni want football saved
University president not optimistic
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 save football.
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 saved.
We dont want to build too much hope and put
someone between a rock and a hard spot, Williams, of Crystal Falls,
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
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 in 2005-06.
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, he said.
Yeo said events moved quickly after Granholms announcement.
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
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,
Yeo said athletics will save about $350,000 a year by eliminating
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 revenue.
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 of $7,250.
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 for football.
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 said.
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,
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
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