Athletics fee to be voted on

The SIU athletic department wants to raise its fee from $306 to $315. Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 10.18.54 PM

“We are certainly understanding of the landscape with tuition rising and the economy,” Mario Moccia, director of athletics, said.

President Randy Dunn said while he does not try to predict how the board will vote, Saluki Athletics has shown it used its available resources well. Dunn said the board needed more information on how Saluki Athletics is dealing with “forever increasing expenditures while revenue is flat.”

Many universities get much of their money from subsidies.

SIU is one of five schools in the country that reduced subsidies in the last year. The University of Illinois, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Missouri and South Carolina State University joined SIU, according to a USA Today article.

Moccia said SIU has lowered subsidies three consecutive years.

“You can’t get away from the underlying fact,” Moccia said. “In the FCS, like SIU, we need subsidies to survive.”

A big financial plan for SIU in recent years was Saluki Way.

The plans for Saluki Way were presented by then Chancellor Walter Wendler in 2005 with Moccia being named director of athletics in 2006.

Moccia said money brought into the athletic department is split into operational costs and paying off Saluki Way. The remaining cost for Saluki Way is about $9 million but with pledges coming in it could be only have of that, he said.

Mark Scally, executive associate athletic director for finance, said the finances were stable in 2007 when he was promoted from assistant athletics director.

“We weren’t in financial trouble by any sense but our model was built very heavily on the student fee, and continues to be,” Scally said.

Scally said they were projecting to continue to grow at the pace they had been but certain programs did not do as well as they had hoped.

“I think initially our plan was to continue the way we were, nobody would have foretold the depths that our basketball program would have struggled,” Scally said. “At that time we were Sweet 16 and looking to keep rolling.”

Moccia said the department is being as frugal as possible and they are trying to chase down every dollar that is out there.

“We’re pretty much down to the bone on how we’re operating…” Moccia said. “We’re operating on a pretty thin staff model.”

Currently, Saluki Athletics has three full-time media relations personnel for 18 sports. Moccia said they are basically a one-person shop in compliance and marketing.

“Obviously, I think, everyone shares the concern about the fact that if you look at the balance sheet for Saluki Athletics, it continues to get more and more expensive to fund that program even as student fees and ticket sales haven’t been bringing in as much as might have been anticipate,” Dunn said.

Moccia said the cost of everything is getting higher and they still have to pay the tuition of their student athletes.

While ticket sales have been declining in recent years, the department is optimistic with the sell-out crowd for the men’s basketball game against Illinois State in the season finale on Mar. 1.

The athletic department brought in IMG Learfield Ticket Solutions, a commission based company, whose only job is to sell tickets. Scally said they have had tickets for sale for years but they haven’t been selling.

Dunn said he did not ask Saluki Athletics to organize a group of outside professionals to research other revenue generating options like he asked William Freivogel, director of the school of journalism, to do after the student media fee was tabled May 9.

“We did not have an outside group coming in to work on this,” Dunn said. “We just asked staff to pull a group together and provide some of this information that the board didn’t have in May.”

Moccia said he understands fees are not easy.

“We understand the difficulties in student fees, that they face, the appearance of it and everything,” Moccia said. “We get it, I mean Mark (Scally) has a kid in college here so he gets it. A lot of people have kids in college here.”

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