College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville
Monday, April 25, 2005
Publisher & Editor
Fiscal headaches can require
It’s no secret that East Carolina’s
athletics program — and dozens of others like it from I-A leagues not
assured of annual Bowl Championship Series bonanzas — labors on an uphill
treadmill to sustain itself.
Recent news reports indicate that not even
the wealthier programs of the college sports universe are immune from
Ironically, the Pirates’ financial
prospects didn’t appear so daunting as recently as two years ago to then-ECU
athletic director Mike Hamrick, who bragged to a confidant that he finally
had his department positioned to begin reaping million-dollar surpluses.
Of course, that projection was issued when
Hamrick was near the end of what some perceive as one of the more bizarre
stretches of administrative botchery in the annals of college athletics.
Considering the cascading repercussions
from some of his decisions and the distraction of the pounding hoofs of the
posse that was coming to get him, it is understandable why Hamrick was more
focused on salvaging his career elsewhere than on courting the Big East and securing
for ECU the relative sense of security that would have accompanied
membership in the league.
The aftermath of Hamrick's escapades is
well-documented: ECU's relations with North Carolina high schools was
poisoned and its flagship bread 'n butter football program ran hard aground,
making semi-regular bowl trips and frequent national TV exposures a relic of
So, obviously, ECU has a valid explanation
for the perilous financial state in which it finds itself.
Which brings us around to the University of Arizona.
What’s the Wildcats’ excuse?
In a sign that well-heeled programs are not exempt from the laws of
economics that dictate reality at rank-and-file schools like East Carolina,
the Arizona athletic department announced earlier this month a wave of
layoffs to help get its expenditures in line with its revenues.
That’s a sobering development from a Pac-10 program awash in cash from the
The school notified 19 employees that they will be losing their jobs as part
of a cost-cutting move aimed at helping to balance the department's $30
million annual budget.
ECU's budget, by comparison, languishes in
the $18 million range.
There was no immediate estimate from
Arizona officials on how much the firings would reduce expenditures.
Rising healthcare costs for employees and
fuel costs were cited as having the biggest impact on expenditures.
The layoffs, effective June 30, will affect
16 of the university's 19 varsity sports. Most will lose clerical or
administrative assistant positions. The football and men's and women's
basketball programs escaped cutbacks.
Those affected by the downsizing represent
almost a fifth of the athletic department's non-coaching work force.
Eight of the laid-off employees are
described as office specialists senior in the Wildcats' staff directory.
Some administrative positions in fund
development, trademarks and licensing, publications, the business office and
the McKale Center box office were eliminated.
The department’s plight was reported in The
Arizona Daily Star and by The Associated Press.
Such draconian measures have been avoided
thus far by East Carolina, which by hiring Terry Holland as athletic
director has distanced itself from the public relations nightmare and
ticket-selling/fundraising malaise it experienced in the landscape shaped by
Holland, clearly recognizing the magnitude of the challenge, has been
anything but passive in his approach to blazing a path to the future for the
Pirates, replacing the coaches in both revenue sports and working behind the
scenes to secure more desirable football and basketball schedules.
Judging by the groundswell of fan support for new gridiron boss Skip Holtz
and new hoops coach Ricky Stokes, the personnel moves by Holland are likely
to produce immediate positive results at the gate. Competitive success by
the two programs can multiply the payback.
Still, in light of the present economics at play in Division I-A, having one of college sports’ most respected figures running its
athletic department is no guarantee that ECU can surpass or even match the
accomplishments it took for granted on the field and in its ledger books for
most of the last 15 years.
When a lavishly-funded program like Arizona’s falls on hard times, the
lesson for ECU partisans is stark: Order those season tickets without
hesitation and pony up when Holland and the Pirate Club ask for financial
support to keep the dream alive.
Or tone down the aspirations — and the
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02/23/2007 01:37:48 AM