BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 2/26/18
Outspending the previous two years by almost 50%, the Adams State University (ASU) football team disbursed a total of $100,352 on travel during the fall 2017 season. This included $95,811 in travel expenses for away games and an additional $4,541 on travel expenses for recruiting. The travel request documents are online here.
As compared to 2016, the 2017 travel costs for ASU’s football team increased by $32,451 – up by 47.8% over the previous year.
For each game, the travel requests specify that 72 people will be traveling, requiring 36 hotel rooms at up to $90 per room. Expenses also include 2 charter buses costing as much as $14,259 for games hosted as far as 625 miles away.
The individual breakdown in cost for these games were:
$24,784 traveling to Spearfish, SD vs. Black Hills State University (L 41-47)
$11,418 traveling to Durango, CO vs. Fort Lewis College (W 34-27)
$18,001 traveling to Chadron, NE vs. Chadron State College (L 23-76)
$6,480 traveling to Pueblo, CO vs. CSU Pueblo (L 17-63)
$13,488 traveling to Canyon, TX vs. West Texas A&M University (L 14-17)
$21,639 traveling to St. George, UT vs. Dixie State University (L 28-54)
In total, ASU football carried a 4 – 7 record during the 2017 season, winning about 36% of its games.
As reported previously, the last year in which ASU won more football games than it lost was 2013; ASU also won more games than lost in 2012 and 2011. In most previous years, ASU approximately “broke even” in terms of wins/losses. With the exception of an 8-3 record in 2012, ASU has never won more than 65% of its games dating back to 2005.
SIGNING OFF ON PRICEY TRAVEL
One former faculty member saw these numbers and reflected on the process of approving athletics travel expenses:
“The increase in spending is simply unbelievable. It’s worth noting that someone had to sign off on all this. The coach proposes schedules and budgets but ASU Athletics Director Larry Mortensen signs off on them. It seems the President should have been controlling this type of spending closely, too.
This leads to the question: how many players really need to travel? I used to have students who never played but always traveled. They traveled to ‘gain experience.’ The coaches knew they wouldn’t play and the players knew, as well but they traveled anyway – at a tremendous cost to the university.
I remember this really drove me nuts because at the time, VPAA Frank Novotny had suspended faculty development funds. And yet, there were my students, traveling across the country, at a cost that often ran into the thousands per student. I remember once I had a few students, who weren’t going to compete, but they traveled to Hawaii anyways to ‘root for their teammates!’ Plane tickets to Hawaii can’t be that cheap.”
INCREASED SPENDING ON ATHLETICS WHILE BUDGETS CUT, POSITIONS VACATED
This increase in travel spending for football happened as a series of financial contingency plans were enacted by the Board of Trustees to address growing budget shortfalls due to declining enrollment and mounting debt.
As recently reported in the Valley Courier:
“ASU is currently $7,300 away from eliminating a projected $800,000 general fund budget shortfall. However, the institution is still working on increasing revenue by $2.7 million… By not filling $70,000 worth of positions, dipping into $20,000 of reserves from the president’s office and along with $477,000 in pledged cuts, the university has almost gotten the general fund back in the black.”
In addition, the Courier reported that ASU “won’t award $5,700 in tuition scholarships to employees studying at the university.”
One ASU employee said, “at the all-campus meeting, Matt Nehring said he’d gotten some flack about this. The fact is, faculty who were awarded development funds to take students to conferences had that money withdrawn. Both are sore subjects on campus.”
In light of the significant increase in travel spending for ASU football and potentially other athletics expenses, this contrast between athletics largesse and academic austerity has many on campus wondering what exactly the financial priorities of a cash-strapped university are.
As this employee noted, “there’s a clear trade-off between non-playing football players traveling to games while employees are not getting support to advance their own educations and professors are being denied support to further educate students at conferences. And of course, faculty and staff may be losing their jobs.”
One former ASU staff member added, “The tough decisions facing ASU require careful consideration of core priorities. Football should not trump education!”