Economy hitting school athletic programs hard

February 18, 2009 5:48:33 PM PST
Local university programs are trying to deal with the slumping economy.In November, all athletic teams got a memo laying out some ways to save money.

"We try to do anything we can to save the University money," NC State Head Coach Sidney Lowe said.

It included watching what players spend on food and making sure they were doubling up in hotel rooms and keeping a close eye on travel.

"Anything we can do, a little differently, like taking a charter flight, catch a commercial flight, saves you a lot of money," Lowe said.

It's not just at NC State; nearly 30 different athletic teams have to find a way to cut back.

The University of North Carolina, including the athletic department, has cut out overtime pay, has a freeze on hiring and is scaling back all administrative travel.

Athletics may seem like a huge moneymaker, but UNC officials say the entire department only made about $200,000 last year.

"The state is feeling it, the university is feeling it," UNC Sr. Assoc. Athletic Director Martina Ballen said. "Almost all the money we bring in goes out to cover all the costs. We've made changes on how we travel; you know the size plane, looking at something smaller, less expensive."

For example, the charter-flight the football team would normally take to play Virginia costs nearly $47,000.

Last fall, Coach Butch Davis decided to bus his team instead, that only cost about $15,000 --a savings of more than $30,000.

Both NC State and UNC expect to have even less money in their budgets come next fall, which means the penny-pinching will only continue.

And the president of the University of North Carolina is taking notice of a moneysaving trend catching on around the country --forcing some employees to take unpaid leave.

Former NC State Basketball Coach Herb Sendek is among the hundreds of employees at Arizona State who must take a mandatory furlough to try to save money during the tight economy.

ACC schools Clemson and Maryland have also initiated mandatory furlough programs that affect coaches.

UNC System President Erskine Bowles wants to furlough all university employees in their off- season, coaches included, but he needs state legislators to change the law.


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