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Sophomore pitcher Megan Holt throws a pitch during the first game of the Lumberjacks' doubleheader on Feb. 29 against Sonoma State at HSU Softball Field.

Athletics Deals with a Budget Curveball

Humboldt State Athletics is making plans for an upcoming reduced budget

With Humboldt State University anticipating lower enrollment for the upcoming academic year, the athletics department has been preparing to make budget adjustments in alignment with the rest of the university. While the department is still waiting on official numbers from the administration to what the budget will look like next semester, Athletics Director Jane Teixeira has been actively working towards making changes with athletics.

“We are going to start going through program by program, looking at ways that we can reduce costs or maximize our benefits and resources,” Teixeira said. “We look at everything from corporate partnerships and how we can maximize those, to donations, to can we live without a second pair of tennis shoes if that’s something we were buying.”

Student enrollment is directly linked to the budget through the Instructionally Related Activities fee that every student pays each semester. The fee currently costs students $337 and covers coach salaries as well as operational expenses for athletics. The funds generated by the IRA fee are also split among the IRA Committee Fund, Jack Pass Fund and Humboldt Energy Independence. A large majority of the money goes to athletics. However, with the department receiving $3.3 million for the 2019-2020 academic year. There is no talk at this time of the fee being raised even if enrollment drops in the future.

The IRA Fee may not be changing, but faculty salary which applies to coaches and is determined with unions and includes automatic increases is at risk. Associated Students Executive Director Jenessa Lund points out that at a certain stage this model will simply stop working as salaries fall out of balance with the fee.

“Salary increases for positions paid by the state are included in the state allocation, as the state builds in a cost of living increase when funding for CSU’s,” Lund said. “When salaries are paid by a flat fee, eventually the salary increases will exceed the amount of fees.”

Newly elected Associated Students President Jeremiah Finley believes that students should not be having to pay for athletics faculty and instead should be paid with state-side funds.

“Ultimately I believe that the wages should be off the back of students. So I’ll advocate that it moves back to state-side.”

Jeremiah Finley

Moving faculty wages back to state-side funding is something the budget office has been looking into since Spring 2018 according to Lund. If this move is made then the money allocated by the CSU system would take rising salaries into consideration. While the current flat fee does not.

Athletics will certainly take a financial hit if enrollment drops as the university predicts. Teixeira was adamant that even though the department has been asked to make changes, the existing programs will not be going anywhere.

“There’s no talk of contracting on our sports,” Teixeira said. “I know there has been some thought from some individuals that were nervous about that because you’re starting to see that happen across the country.”

With enrollment down significantly in the Fall semester, athletics will be leaning more heavily on other sources of revenue; state-side, private donations and corporate sponsorships. Teixeira was unable to provide exact numbers on how much money comes from these sources, but did say that support from the community is especially important for athletics. However with the long term effects following COVID-19, donors contributions will potentially be affected.

“I appreciate the individuals who have given to us and hope we can continue to gather their support for that,” Teixeira said. “We’re going to need it as we move forward in this budgetary time. But we also are aware that this pandemic has affected people. It’s affected our neighbors and we have to be really smart about that.”

“Rec sports is a huge part of what HSU does for students. So it’s not just an athletic issue, this is a student issue.”

Athletics Director Jane Teixeira

If student enrollment takes the anticipated dip for the 2020-2021 school year, recreational sports would see a dip in funding, since they’re part of the athletics department. Teixeira said that recreational sports had already taken a reduction and needs support since it applies to so many students.

“Rec sports is a huge part of what HSU does for students,” Teixeira said. “So it’s not just an athletic issue, this is a student issue.”

The potential to use unspent money from this semester to bolster athletics is being explored as an option. While the final numbers haven’t been released, track and field, softball and rowing all had their seasons cancelled before completion. Meaning funds that are normally spent on travel and lodging are still available. This money could be used for other operations in the future.

Finley thinks that any athletic money not spent due to COVID-19 should be dispersed back into the program.

“Ultimately if that money is allocated, which it currently is, for our student athletes,” Finley said. “Then our student athletes should still benefit from that. I don’t know what that looks like, but that’s why we have different bodies in different pockets of excellence around campus to get that input.”

Without certainty from HSU’s administration, the athletic department continues to create scenarios for possible budget outcomes they will face going into the 2020-21 school year.

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