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Follow the money: where do the athletes get the funds?

by Tori Martinez
Tue, Apr 3rd 2018 10:00 pm

When college students get their bills in the mail each semester, it’s easy to just see numbers: $3,325 for tuition, $4,139 for dorming, $100 for Brockport Student Government, etc. Most wouldn’t know what the money actually funds, though. 

Take student fees for example. If someone sees they are billed $225 per semester for the athletic fee, it’s obvious that money goes toward the college’s athletic department, but what exactly does that money pay for? Who has to pay certain fees and other expenses, why are they mandatory, and what would the college look like if students did not have to pay into them? These are just a few of the questions that have led to this new series, “Follow the money.”

For most student fees, everyone who attends The College at Brockport has to pay them. When it comes to the athletic fee, however, only undergraduate students who are studying at the college itself pay the fee; graduate students and undergrads who are studying abroad or involved in internship programs like the SUNY Washington Internship Program are excluded.

When it comes to the athletic department, it essentially would not exist without the athletic fee. 

“We’re a fee-based operation, so that student fee is everything: salaries, the fringe [benefits] we pay on the state side, the operating expenses, transportation, meals, everything,” Athletic Director Erick Hart said, also including that it is not just sports that benefit from the fee. The pool and stadium, and Tuttle Athletic Complex itself, are also included in fee coverage.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the fee has been a total of $450, but next year it will be increasing by $15. Hart says this is because the department has been in debt for a number of years, and increasing the fee is helping to get the department back to a balanced budget. By next year, since the 2015-16 year, the fee will have increased by $48.

Factors like how many teams the college has or how many students are paying the fee also come into play. At Brockport, the athletic department oversees 23 different teams and roughly 6,375 students paid into the athletic fee in the 2016-17 year, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis (EADA).

The athletics department needs upwards of $4 million to operate annually, but only receives a little over $1.5 million when combining money given from the state, private donations and college work-study, among others. This is why students carry the brunt of the athletic department’s revenues. Regardless of a student’s connection to athletics, they must pay the fee.

“There’s an infrastructure and there’s an expectation that students have certain services in place,” said Karen Riotto, vice president for Finance Managment. “The fee is necessary to support this infrastructure.” 

The infrastructure being the athletic department, one of the certain services available to students. With EADA data showing that 433 men participated across 11 men’s teams in 2016-17 and 297 women participated across 12 women’s teams, the college doesn’t expect that only those 730 students pay into the department. If it did, those students would have to pay almost $4,000. Instead, everyone at the college splits the cost and spends $450.

As a sort of compensation to students, Hart says all sports games are free, even the football team’s Courage Bowl and Homecoming Game, and that students can use Tuttle’s pool for open swim, its weight room, the racquetball courts and basketball hoops. 

Tuttle is also a building that can hold different campus-wide events throughout the year — in the past, the college has hosted comedians and spring concerts in the building. Without the athletic fee, the athletic department wouldn’t be able to keep Tuttle up and running smoothly for events like this.

EADA data also show how student fees are being used. For the 2016-17 year, more than a $1 million was spent on salaries alone, with a total of $651,321 to pay the salaries of men and women’s teams head coaches and $343,606 to pay assistant coaches’ salaries. The data can be found on ope.ed.gov, which gives information about how much certain sports teams cost, such as men and women’s basketball costing more than $239,000 and football just a few hundred away from $630,000. This helps pay for equipment, transportation to and from games, housing and food for sports teams that have to be at the college during breaks and more.

For teams that want to do other things like fly to Florida to play over spring break, as Brockport’s baseball team did earlier this month, they actually fundraise for all of the own expenses, Hart says. When the athletic fee goes to pay for transportation, Hart exlpained it’s for the mandatory kind of transportation the teams need to get from one game to another — anything extra is paid for by the teams themselves.