Paying to play: USM students and officials talk about cost of sports

USM's #7 Jennifer Poulin vies for the ball during a field hockey game in September.
Justicia Barreiros | The Free Press
USM's #7 Jennifer Poulin vies for the ball during a field hockey game in September.

Posted on April 14, 2014 in Sports, Sports Feature
By Justicia Barreiros

There’s no doubt that college sports are expensive, but although the majority of the expenses are covered by the university, student athletes still have to pay out of pocket occasionally.
Raquel Heitor, a freshman on the women’s lacrosse team, believes that lacrosse is the most expensive sport for students. “It might be second, but it’s definitely around the top,” said Heitor. “My stick is pretty expensive.” Heitor mentioned that she paid $180 for her stick, $30 for gloves and $25 for protective goggles.
Jeff Urmston, a sophomore studying athletic training and a member of the men’s lacrosse team, disagrees. “No, hockey is the most expensive,” said Urmston. Although both men’s lacrosse and ice hockey require that students buy their own protective gear like arms pads and shoulder pads, the gear for ice hockey is more expensive. All helmets required for teams are included with the uniform and provided by the university.
Hockey and lacrosse student athletes often choose to provide their own sticks but are required to purchase other equipment. “Goggles, gloves, under armor if it gets really cold, shoes or cleats—depends on what you want,” said Heitor.
Junior criminology major and USM wrestler Sean Fagan acknowledges that participating in his sport isn’t very expensive for student athletes. “I’d probably say it’s one of the least expensive because equipment wise all you have to buy are wrestling shoes and headgear, whereas other sports you have to buy cleats and other equipment,” said Fagan. According to Fagan, his wrestling shoes typically last about three seasons costing $70, and headgear that lasts even longer for $30.
“We’re aware of how difficult it is for people to afford to go to school and we’re trying not to make it any harder for them than necessary,” said USM’s Athletic Director Al Bean commenting that student athletes are given opportunities to fundraise for extra expenses like warm-up jackets and spring trips to Florida that take place outside of the sport’s regular season games. “Any difference between the cost of the trip and the amount raised is split evenly among all team members, per NCAA rules,” said Bean.
Sports are not only expensive for the students athletes but also for the university. Baseball is actually USM’s most expensive sport with a budget around $185,000 each year according to Al Bean. Included in that cost are coach’s salaries, umpires/ officials, uniforms, equipment, and transportation. “The 37 students in that program, however, generate $522,000 from tuition and board revenues,” said Bean.
On the other end of the sports budget spectrum are men’s and women’s tennis, cheering, and golf. “Golf is our least expensive, costing just over $18,000 per year, serving 10 students and generating about $106,000 in tuition and room and board revenues,” said Bean.
The largest portion of the Athletic Department’s budget of any sport goes towards the coaches and other staff. “Generally if you look at our expenses in the department, like most departments, salaries and benefits are your number one cost—and then for us it would be travel and officials and supplies,” said Bean. Field maintenance is included in the facilities management budget.
Al Bean also explained that the department contributes a calculated amount for the team trips based on how much the games would’ve cost had they been played at home. “So if you take baseball and softball for example, if they don’t go somewhere they can’t play their full schedule so I’d be paying for the cost of umpires at home anyway,” said Bean. “So we do a calculation and try to kick in what’s a reasonable amount based on if they had played here, the flights, all that stuff—baseball raises $35,000 a year to go to Florida for their trip, and softball is similar.”
Bean noted that different sports have different needs and some materials last longer than others. Regardless of price, equipment doesn’t last forever.
“It’s obviously done purposely so they can sell you new ones,” said Bean, mentioning that practice gear usual. “There are very few things that you could buy today and know four years from now that you could buy it again.”