Athletics pinches pennies; Coaches decide how to accomodate 24 percent budget reduction

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After taking a 24 percent revenue drop over the last two years, Lane’s athletic department is cinching its belt and looking for different sources of money.

Lane’s enrollment decline means that fewer students are paying the activity fee, almost a quarter of which — approximately $426,000 in 2012 — funds the athletic department. This year, that fell to $323,450.

While general funds provided by the college supports the salary of three staff positions in Lane’s athletic department, all other department spending is paid through coaches’ fundraising and the college’s student activity fees.

The decline in revenue has led the athletic department to cut talent grants, field maintenance, referee and umpire fees, uniforms, and traveling expenses.

Teams who do well go to playoffs “and playoffs cost money,” Lane Dean of Athletics Chris Dawkins said.

“Each coach has made their own decisions on how they want to trim, and we’re at the point now where there’s not a whole lot more to trim. We’re down to literally counting pennies,” Dawkins said. “Meal money has been trimmed a little. When we travel, we’re putting four kids in a hotel room instead of two.”

Though many student athletes attend Lane on talent grants, they vary. The grants can only cover tuition, but not books, fees or living expenses. The number of paid credits offered to athletes depends on the individual coach’s decision.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘full ride,’” Lane Athletic Director Greg Sheley said. “It covers tuition only and rarely does it cover all of one’s tuition. It covers about 66 percent of an athlete’s tuition.”

The athletics department can issue scholarships for 1,776 credits during a school year. Lane offers the fewest talent grants among NWAACC member colleges — 20 to 50 percent fewer than other colleges, Sheley said.

The Lane athletic department currently has a sponsorship contract with Bi-Mart that will expire in about a year, Dawkins said, but the college is beginning negotiations for a renewal with Bi-Mart.

The department also has developed a relationship with the Eugene Timbers Fútbol Club, a youth soccer group that uses the college’s facility. In that sharing arrangement, the club pays the department money that goes into a fund that helps with maintenance and repair.

Athletics is also searching for new sources of money.

“We are leaning towards more business discussions. How do we sell advertising on our website? How do we sell advertising at our venues? Bake sales aren’t going to help us here,” Dawkins said. “What sort of relationships can we develop that are going to enhance the college, but also generate revenues?”

The department is considering a campaign, which they’re calling The Titan 300 Club, to reach out to 300 former student athletes and ask them to commit to contributing $25 per month for five years. These funds would cover officials, transportation, new uniforms — but would not cover coach salaries.

“At a time when funds are decreasing, we have increased expenses that are completely out of our control,” Dawkins said. “We would like to put on a very nice show. We would like to have an announcer. We would like to have a national anthem (but) because of the budget cuts, what we have now done is we’ve gone to the manuals and handbooks that say ‘this is what you must have.’”