Funding sports is its own game

Evan Belfiore

Cheerleaders cheer to the band’s fight song, while students with blue and gold painted faces enthusiastically cheer for the home team from a half-filled stadium.

Yes. Football season is fast approaching, which calls to mind how large a sport team’s operating budget is and where that money comes from.

The main source of income for the athletic department comes from the student activity fee.

Included in each student’s tuition, the activity fee allows students admission to all home games of every university team.

Athletic Director Laing Kennedy said he thinks of the fee as a season ticket.

Because Kent State, like other mid-major conference schools, generates modest revenue from the football program, athletics is dependent on money from the activity fee.

“Other programs at our level, other mid-majors, do the same thing,” said David Creamer, vice president of administration.

While the use of student tuition money to fund athletics is common, even a university where students can go to games for free has its share of critics.

“I think if you’re a student, you should get into games for free anyway,” said Jordan Petersen-Fitts, junior dance performance major. “They could cut back a little and try and get sponsors.”

Football usually bears the brunt of the criticism because of the program’s lackluster history in the past 20 years.

“The football team is not good,” said Robert Hare, junior political science major . “The salaries for the coaches are huge and they can’t even fill the stadium.”

While football has been an easy target, it has brought in more revenue than any other team through ticket sales, direct contributions and money from playing away games.

While Hare does not attend games, he still favors the activity fee because he is in organizations funded by the fee.

The activity fees collected on campus also fund the DeWeese Health Center, the Student Center, the Student Wellness and Recreation Center, Undergraduate Student Senate, the intramural division and other groups.

Creamer said it would be tough to cut the fee.

“We would have to eliminate major sports to get any real savings,” he said, “and eliminating programs brings Title IX into play.”

Since 1972, Title IX has required equal participation in men’s and women’s sports.

Even though the women’s teams have been successful, they have not generated much revenue. Women’s athletics accounted for about 9 percent of more than $500,000 in Kent State ticket sales last year. Football and men’s basketball brought in almost 90 percent of total ticket sales.

But ticket sales are not a huge part of the total athletic budget, the student activity fee and money from allocations are most of it.

“Athletics is a major part of access to everyone at the university,” said Kennedy. “That is the most important role we play. Success of a program provides a positive environment about the university.”

Contact general assignment reporter Evan Belfiore at [email protected].