Windsor cuts varsity programs

Six teams lose status, school saves $50,000

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Not even athletes are safe from the economic downturn. Some university athletic departments are cutting programming because of reductions to their budgets.

The University of Windsor recently cut six varsity teams from its athletic programming, saving the department $50,000.

“We’ve looked at all our options and were limited in what we could do,” Gordon Grace, director of athletics for the University of Windsor, said. He added he felt the department was creating the right number of teams based on the new budget.

Men’s rugby, women’s fast-pitch, men’s and women’s curling and the men’s and women’s golf teams are being cut from Windsor’s athletics programs. The teams were chosen based on a previous ranking done by the school and are coached by part-time staff.

The budget for Windsor’s teams is largely provided by the university, which includes travel and coaching costs. In an attempt to counter the budget cuts the university tried fundraising, but had difficulties finding donors.

“People say, ‘Well why can’t you fundraise more things right now?’” Grace said. “Well, Windsor [has] probably the worst economy in Canada right now, so sponsorship and fundraising and things like that we have found to be very difficult.

“In a lot of ways it’s reflective of the economy, in others it’s reflective of the fact the university reduced our budget,” she added.

Windsor is not the first athletic department in Canada to resort to such actions; the University of New Brunswick stripped four programs from their varsity status last year in a move to cut costs.

Other athletic departments currently affected by the recession include Simon Frasier University, whose budget has been reduced by about three per cent.

Western’s athletics department, however, is currently not showing any signs of being affected by the failing economy.

“We have not been affected by the downturn because of our base funding that we get from the university for many of our teams helping us get through some of our tough times,” Chuck Mathies, acting director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Western, said.

The funding system at Western allows for some sports to receive base funding from the school. Fundraising, sponsorships and student athletic fees will cover the remainder of costs.

“There is an athletic fee that we collect from the students, and then that fee is used within our overall budget plan along with overall revenues,” Mathies said. “We also receive some support from the university in the form of subsidies.”

Mathies added if these factors fail to keep athletics from being affected by the economy, there is an alternative plan.

“We do have a history here for a number of years where we had a number of teams with zero funding [from the school] and the teams still managed to continue to compete in the [Ontario University Athletics] and to do well,” he said.

Mathies added the fiscal year for IA is not over yet; the new year will start in May.

“If all of a sudden there is a downsizing or reduction ... then the consequence of that would be to look at our entire operation and see how we can manage it.”

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