While academics is shouldering a hefty 63.4 percent of the $5 million budget shortfall at USM, the Athletics Department will only see a cut of less than 2 percent in its operating budget. In addition, the recreation manager position has been eliminated and another position related to equipment management will see a reduction in pay.
The Department of Athletics’s total operating budget, including payroll and general operations, is approximately $2.8 million. Chief Student Affairs Officer Craig Hutchinson, who oversees the department, stated that the athletics operating budget was cut by $35,000, which amounts to half of the average faculty salary at USM.
According to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool, between the 23 sports teams at USM, there are 23 head coaches and 47 assistant coaches who work with the 487 student athletes at the university.
The University of Maine, in comparison, has 15 teams with 34 associate or assistant coaching positions for 535 student athletes. Unlike USM, they do not have golf, tennis, lacrosse, volleyball, men’s soccer and wrestling.
In the 2012 fiscal year, the Salaried Employees Compensation and Classification Program reported that USM granted 44 raises while AFUM faculty have not had a raise since 2009 when they were granted a 1.5 percent raise. Twelve of the raises were given to head coaches at USM, ranging from a 3 to 25 percent increase. Wrestling coach Joe Pistone was given a 14 percent raise, amounting to $1,400.40 in 2012. According to University of Maine System documents, Pistone has received an additional raise of $3,810.73, totalling a raise of $5,211.13 since 2012.
While the rest of the university, including academic affairs, continues to be scoured for more potential cuts, Hutchinson said that “no other reductions in the athletics area are being considered at this time.”
In a meeting last week with Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Stevenson and Executive Director of Public Affairs Bob Caswell, Free Press staff members asked if the Athletic Department will see any additional cuts in the near future. “I honestly don’t know, but I do know that we continue to have conversations. It’s certainly the case that everything’s on the table,” said Stevenson.
Talks of cuts from the Athletics Department have not been a priority or even commonly mentioned at numerous budget meetings so far. “I have been in no meetings or conversations where there’s [sic] been detailed conversation about athletics,” said Caswell. “That conversation hasn’t taken place or at least any conversation that I’ve been a part of.”
The average salary for a head coach at USM is $41,569.88. In comparison, the average faculty member, without benefits, makes $70,000. One of the highest paying coaches at USM is head baseball coach Ed Flaherty, who was also one of the coaches to receive a raise in 2012. Since then, Flaherty has seen a $10,043.38 pay increase, rising from $72,411.62 to $82,433, making $12,433 more than the faculty average. During Flaherty’s 28 seasons at USM, the Huskies have won two national titles, and in 2005, he was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Overall, the team has been relatively successful.
The University of Maine, a Division I school in the NCAA and the flagship campus of the University of Maine System, also has a very successful baseball program, with seven College World Series appearances. Their head coach, Steve Trimper, made $77,499.96 in 2013. Their baseball staff consists of Trimper, two assistant coaches and one volunteer assistant coach compared to USM’s five assistant coaches.
USM will continue to experience over $12 million in cuts over the next four years, according to Chief Financial Officer Dick Campbell’s estimate, and Provost Stevenson stressed again that the process is not over.
“We continue to look, whether in athletics or other places, for opportunities to make sure we are offering the right things to the right numbers of people, you know, where the right demands are,” said Stevenson.
USM student athletes make up only 9 percent of the 4,418 full-time undergraduate population. According to Caswell, USM’s athletics, even by Division III standards is not heavily staffed, but he also stressed the benefits of the program for the university. “Their retention rates and graduation rates are higher than the general student body generally as a whole, so before cutting into that program, that would be something that would have to be considered.”
According to the Student-Athlete Handbook, student athletes are “held to a higher standard than the average student,” which helps with higher retention and graduation rates Caswell mentioned. Student athletes are required to be in good academic standing and must attend study sessions for a certain number of hours a week in order to stay eligible. Sophomore economics major Emmalee Tracy was surprised to hear about the cuts in the Athletics Department.
“It’s not that our sports teams aren’t good, it’s just that they’re not a focal point for most students,” said Tracy. “I would assume USM values academics more than sports.”
Athlete or non-athlete, it’s the student’s education that is on the line. Students will be affected by the $5 million budget cut. While academics are taking the biggest hit, the athletics department will stay afloat, for now.