Proposed athletic fee to increase transparency in Bearkat sports

With three straight Southland Conference “Commissioner Cup” awards and conference championship titles in baseball, softball, track and field and golf in recent years, the Sam Houston State athletic department is booming. Funding for the department, however, ranks among the lowest in the SLC, and university officials are working make the most of what they have and look towards building more in the future.

The only university funding that the Bearkat sports programs receive comes from Student Services fees, which are currently $25 per semester credit hour, not to exceed $225. According to the 2008-2010 catalogue, this fee covers Intramural Sports programs, Student Life Support programs and the SHSU Athletic programs. It also pays students’ way into all Bearkat athletic events.

Beginning next semester, the university plans to split the Student Services fee to create a new Athletic Fee. According to Athletic Director Bobby Williams, the decision to create the Athletic Fee was made to help the department break away from reliance on the Student Services fee and create more transparency about where their funding comes from and where it goes.

“The key thing about it is we want to make it more transparent,” Williams said. “Basically, we want to separate it out because that gives us more opportunity to have our fee and make it cleaner.”

According to Williams, there will be no initial increase in the overall amount of money that students will be paying. The referendum was put to a vote on Friday, but Vice President for Student Services Frank Parker was unavailable for comment on whether or not it passed.

Williams said that the athletic department spends $1.5 million out of the overall budget on the Bearkat football program, with a majority of that money going to scholarships.

“Scholarship costs have risen dramatically, plus we’ve added scholarships in our women’s programs,” Williams said. “That’s one of the reasons our women sports have gotten better.”

In addition to the Student Services fee, the athletic department also receives funds from external sources such as ticket sales, advertising and financial contributions. Big donations, such as the $1 million given in 2006 by Don Sanders for the baseball complex, provide boosts to the Bearkat programs, but can often be few and far between.

Williams said President James Gaertner has given the program incentives to increase external funding by looking at building new facilities. Those funds will be used to cover a myriad of expenses, including general upkeep and maintenance, which the athletic department is responsible for financing.

“If the scoreboard goes down, or something messes up, we have to pay for it,” Williams said. “Part of that is paid for by external or donated money from alumni, local businesses or things like that.”

Even with increased pursuit of external funding, based on the overall budgets and spending of the SLC teams, SHSU consistently ranks in the lower half of overall spending.

“Some of our funding comes from fees, but a lot comes from us and external sources,” Williams said. “You can see where we’re compared to with our competitors in the conference. We give our university a bang for its buck. We’ve got a successful program, good student athletes both on and off the field, and we’re doing it on a fifth or sixth place budget.”

“It’s not like we’re expanding money out there. People lump us with the Big XII-type schools, but that’s not us. You’re looking at $5.1 million from institutional support, compared to Stephen F. Austin and Texas State who’re spending 10-11 million.”

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