Current financial situation asks athletics to do more with less

Despite having already cut two programs in the last eight years, the Nicholls State University athletic program still faces uncertainty concerning the budget.

The vagueness of the budget cuts has raised concerns about the cost and benefits of having an athletic program in a small university like Nicholls. The argument points out a 51 percent growth in Nicholls’ athletic budget in the past eight years while the university has been forced to cut their educational spending.

“Athletics is often a target [of criticism], but I think that it shouldn’t be,” athletic director Rob Bernardi said. “The University and the community get substantial return of the investments [in athletics] back.”

While it’s true that the Colonels athletic program’s budget has increased, Nicholls has cut $1.1 million of funding that would otherwise be directed to athletics, to meet the past mid-year budget cuts since 2008.

“In general, the University has suffered through eight years of budget cuts,” Bernardi said. “And that has obviously affected athletics as well. We have cut programs, personnel and about as much as we can cut.”

The impact of the new budget cuts for athletics is still uncertain. The Potential Mid-Year Budget Reduction Plan Options submitted by Nicholls on Jan. 25 does not mention any specific cuts to athletics. However, athletics’ personnel are not immune to faculty furlough and layoff of unclassified and classified staff potential plans.

“Right now, no one knows how much the cuts [to higher education] will be,” Bernardi said. “It is hard to say, what kind of cuts will be made university wise and even for the athletics.”

According to Bernardi, athletics has no intention on cutting sports programs.

“We are not going to cut a sport, because we can’t [do it] in order to maintain our division one status.”
As part of the Division I, Nicholls athletics has the requirement to sponsor a minimum of seven sports for men and seven for women, or six for men and eight for women. Currently, Nicholls sponsors six men’s teams and eight women’s team.

“The Division I is the highest level of competition in collegiate sports,” Bernardi said. “It creates the most awareness for our institution and being a member of the division one also has monetary benefits to the University. ”

To meet past fiscal years budget cut, Nicholls athletics had to eliminate two programs, women’s golf and men’s track and field.

The Colonels athletics revenue sums up to $6.9 million, an equivalent of 8.5 percent of the school’s operating budget for 2015-2016. The athletics total revenue is a combination of $4.7 million from university subsidy and self-raised revenue.

“We administer the amount the university can afford to give us the best way we can and we go out and raise the rest we need to operate,” Bernardi said.
Ticket sales, game guarantees, foundation, clubs and other private funding compose Nicholls self-raised revenue.

“Just this year alone, Nicholls raised over $1.5 million through game guarantees,” Bernardi said.

According to the current budget, the Colonels football team has raised $1 million on game guarantees alone. Other games guarantees include $475,000 raised by men’s basketball, an extra $2,000 raised by other men’s sports and $47,500 raised by all the women’s athletics.

“One of the great things about the athletics is that we are very self-sufficient in a lot of ways,” Bernardi said. “Doing those types of things helps to support our program.”

Next year, the Colonels’ football team will face the University of Georgia, which according to Bernardi will raise nearly $600,000 for the athletic program.

The athletics is a rallying point for the university, according Bernardi.

In a time where the goal for our university is to increase enrollment to 8,000 students, cutting TOPS will have a negative impact on the university. Student-athletes compose about six percent of the university students’ population.

“At Nicholls, students directly and indirectly involved with athletics are probably about 400 students,” Bernardi said. “The athletics contribute to the university in a lot of ways. Not only to its financial stability, but to the spirit of community on campus.”

Athletics is a part of college life for more than a century and has become part of the University culture. According to Bernardi, Nicholls Athletics is the one thing that creates a positive awareness in our community and on our campus.

For example, next week’s baseball game against Louisiana State University, will not only be a big event on campus but will also be broadcasted live on television across the entire state.
This kind of visibility helps to promote Nicholls and create awareness of the university in a very positive light.