U to lift ban on sports plans

Bruininks plans to let the ban on athletics building plans expire on June 30.

The University’s moratorium on athletics building projects is ending, University President Bob Bruininks told coaches earlier this month.

Former University President Mark Yudof implemented the moratorium in April 2002 in response to an athletics department budget deficit. Bruininks said he will allow the three-year moratorium to expire as planned on June 30.

Starting July 1, coaches can submit proposals for building projects to the president’s office for approval. Bruininks said he will consider requests on a case-by-case basis.

“I am willing to receive proposals, provided the athletics budget is strong,” Bruininks said.

Athletics Director Joel Maturi said it makes sense to evaluate all requests individually.

“I think what (Bruininks) is saying is that in a sense the moratorium is over, but in another sense, it’s never over,” Maturi said. “He’s not just going to let us go out and raise money for anything, anytime.”

The athletics department budget has improved somewhat, Maturi said.

“I understand it’s a very challenging time for the University and for athletics, and we have to make sure we get our own financial house in order,” Maturi said. “I think slowly we’re doing that.”

But the budget has remained relatively stagnant the last couple of years, Maturi said. It has increased about $1 million to cover higher scholarship costs due to tuition increases, he said.

The moratorium’s end will help the University become more competitive, Maturi said.

“There are facility needs and the reality of it is that in big-time college athletics, if you stand still, you fall behind,” he said. “We can’t stand still too long.”

Several University teams, including the football and rowing teams, are seeking new or improved facilities. Bruininks had already allowed exceptions for a football stadium and a boathouse.

The baseball team also wants a new stadium because the current facility – Siebert Field – is falling apart, coach John Anderson said. The team has been seeking a new stadium since the early 1990s, he said.

News of the moratorium’s impending end is encouraging, Anderson said, but until a new stadium is approved, he will be skeptical.

“I guess there’s a ray of hope, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” Anderson said. “I guess I’m tainted a little bit because I’m tainted by history, but at least we’re talking about moving forward.”

Maturi said a new baseball stadium will be a top priority once the moratorium is lifted.

“I think (Anderson) has a good case, I think we need a new facility, I think he has some potential donors,” Maturi said. “I think there are a lot of positives there.”

Scott Ellison, associate athletics director for facilities and event management, said the moratorium forced the athletics department to postpone numerous facilities projects.

“There’s a whole list of projects that the athletic department has that we’re waiting for the OK to move on,” Ellison said.

Prospective facilities projects include a clubhouse and practice facility for the golf teams, locker rooms at Williams Arena for the women’s basketball team and a football training room.

Not all building plans would require substantial University funding because the athletics department solicits donations, Ellison said. The department can offer enticements, such as naming rights, to donors, he said.

With the moratorium lifted, the athletics department could start moving ahead with some projects, Ellison said.

“We can start putting some target dates on fund-raising and planning,” he said. “It helps having the moratorium lifted, so we can start putting them on a timetable as far as getting the money to do the projects and moving ahead in that respect.”