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Strike Three: A special report on athletic cuts at UNK

Strike Three (KHGI)

Much to the surprise of many, three sports were cut from the University of Nebraska at Kearney on Feb. 12, 2018. Months later, there are still unanswered questions within the athletic community and those surrounding it.

To help answer these questions, we've reached out to key leaders around the state, student–athletes, a member of the Nebraska Board of Regents and UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen.

When NTV sought comment from University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds, his office replied in part, "President Bounds is supportive of the decisions being made by the campuses, and specific to your questions, he is completely supportive of Chancellor Kristensen's process and decisions at UNK," in an email. "There are no easy cuts. As a university system, we are working very hard to manage the cuts in a way that best protects our academic quality and affordability for our students."

We also reached out to Governor Ricketts. Taylor Gage, the director of Strategic Communications, replied, "The University of Nebraska is independently governed by the Board of Regents who manage the University's budget. They set the priorities for the University, including the cost–saving measures they are currently implementing."

Some have argued these student-athletes bring a lot of money to the university. These critics, who have spoken out on social media and directly to NTV, say by cutting the three athletic programs, the university is hurting themselves in the long run.

So, let's look at the revenues and expenditures of each sport provided by UNK.

Specific to the three sports combined, operational budgets and salaries came in at $353,639 for the 2017–2018 school year.

Financial aid comes to a total of $520,312, but it's a tricky equation based on the way it was presented by UNK to the public and NTV.

Standard athletic aid this past school year added up to a total of $289,219. This is money the school does not receive based on scholarships given to students because of their athletic endeavors on campus.

There was also a line–item listed as "other" aid.

Regarding tuition, UNK defines other aid as, "Waivers granted to students for academic or financial reasons unrelated to athletic participation." The school also provided a similar definition for the room and board aid, stated as, "Other support granted to students for academic or financial reasons unrelated to athletic participation and provided by the NU Foundation, Pell grants, outside scholarships, and other university resources."

According to Jon Watts, UNK's Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance, this other aid is counted against money coming in from each sport's tuition and fees plus room and board and is money the university must forego.

Even though it is specifically defined as unrelated to athletic participation, it counts against the money students from those sports are bringing in. See how this gets tricky?

Tied to the three sports this past year, other aid totaled $231,093.

None of these sports were making money as an individual program; very few at the NCAA Division II level actually do. UNK did not charge admissions to contests, the programs sold a sparingly small amount of concessions and financial amounts of amenities such as t–shirts, hats and similar accessories were too small to calculate.

What they lack in charged admissions and other amenities sold, they needed to make up for by fundraising.

Numbers provided to us by UNK show baseball raised $1.51 million since 2014. Golf accumulated $43,404 in the same time span while tennis brought in $13,260 over the last five years for a grand total of $1.56 million. As for 2018 in specific, a cumulative of $111,295 was brought in by those three programs.

If we calculate the dollars coming in compared to the costs and financial aid of these programs, as provided by UNK, the school received a total of $945,005 while it either spent or had to forego $873,951. There's a financial gain of $71,054 for the university at the conclusion of the 2017–18 school year.

It's important to note these numbers can't be placed side–by–side because there are so many "pots" where money goes. For example, tuition money from baseball students does not go toward operational costs of the baseball program. Room and board for golf students does not cover the golf coach's insurance.

Let's take it one step further. In the initial press release on Feb. 12, 2018, the university said, "UNK's budget gap of $3.4 million is the result of decreased state appropriations, declining credit hour production, and scheduled salary and benefit increases."

Increased salaries/benefits and inflation are good for $1.73 million of the budget gap UNK faces. Enrollment funds have dropped $1.74 million over the course of the last two years. Those two factors account for a negative of $3.47 million for the university's shortfall, or slightly more than the $3.46 million deficit UNK had to erase.

As the numbers given to NTV by UNK show, by taking away between 50 and 60 potential student–athletes and their incoming money, there is a possibility of an even greater decline in credit hour production. Erasing students from an equation when there is already a drop of nearly $1.75 million seems counter–intuitive to one of the larger problems at hand.

Athletics was far from the only spot to be impacted. According to the UNK release, $837,000 in support staff positions were cut, along with $1.55 million in faculty, plus another $829,475 in operations personnel.

This is a decision which not only effects current and former student–athletes but also the Loper fan base of those sports. Strike Three is an opportunity for you to hear many parts of this ongoing story and we thank you for watching.


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