Cost per athlete key for U

by Lora Pabst

TEDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last article in a three-part series about money and University athletics.

There are several differences between men’s and women’s athletic teams, but budgets are not supposed to be one of them.

The athletics department must report to the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA on gender equity in team budgets and other areas.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the University used to receive money from the state Legislature specifically for gender equity in women’s sports.

The money no longer is designated for gender equity, but instead goes into the athletics department’s general funds.

“Even though it’s not a legal restriction anymore, there’s a strong legislative history (of using the money for gender equity),” Pfutzenreuter said. “We care a lot about what the history is.”

Liz Eull, chief financial officer for athletics, said the athletics department makes sure men’s and women’s teams have equal opportunities to be successful.

“It’s more about making sure they have enough money to provide the same opportunity,” she said.

One way the athletics department measures gender equity is by looking at how much teams spend per student athlete.

The men’s basketball team spends the most per athlete. The team budget divided by the 17 team members equals $134,569 per player.

The cost does not include scholarships, which are not included in team budgets.

Even though the football team has a significantly larger team budget than men’s basketball, its cost per student-athlete is lower because it has more team members.

Eull said there are many factors that affect how much money is spent on each team and ultimately on each athlete.

“A really good example of this is hockey sticks. The men’s hockey team tends to break a lot more sticks than the women’s team does. Because of that, they buy a lot more hockey sticks.” Eull said. “(The men’s hockey team) spends a lot more but the opportunity is the same for both teams. It’s the nature of the sport.”

Often, it costs one team more than another to provide the same opportunity. Both the women’s and men’s basketball teams are provided with the budget to charter flights for weekday games. In some cases, it costs one of the teams less to have the same opportunity because the game schedules don’t require the same travel.

Eull said the athletics department also looks at whether men’s or women’s teams have significant increases in their budgets from year to year.

“We make sure the percentage increases are equivalent or better for the women,” she said.

The type of team, rather than the gender of the team, often determines the team budget.

“In the marketplace for coaches, men’s basketball coaches get paid a lot more than women’s basketball coaches,” Eull said. “Women’s basketball coaches get paid a lot more than men’s wrestling coaches. It can really change the total budget for a sport.”

This is why the athletics department pays close attention to how much each team spends per student-athlete.

“If you look at the basketball team, it’s (higher) because they charter their flights. If you look at (contact) sports, it’s because they spend more on equipment. If the team is really large, it’s because you’re spreading (the budget) across a lot more kids,” Eull said.

The rowing team is the second largest team at the University but it spends the least amount per student-athlete, according to the athletics department’s budget for fiscal 2006.

Rowing coach Wendy Davis said this is because its smaller budget is spread across more people.

She said the team also spends a lot less on equipment than other teams, like hockey.

“We don’t buy new (equipment) every year and we trade in (our boats),” Davis said.

Eull said the athletics department is gender blind when it comes to deciding team budgets.

“We handle our teams in a similar fashion. We’re not saying that we’re gonna look at the gender before we decide the team’s budget,” she said.