Athletics department faces $135,000 in cuts

Lucas Aulbach

The athletics department was not spared from the recent wave of announced budget cuts at WKU.

A total of $135,000 was cut from the Topper athletics department’s budget in WKU’s 2013-14 Budget Reduction Plan, released Wednesday. More than $2 million was slashed from the university’s budget.

Athletics Director Todd Stewart said he expected the athletics department to be affected by the cuts just like any other department at WKU.

“Any time you have a budget cut of any kind it presents challenges because you have less at your disposal moving forward, but certainly when the university has to cut over two million dollars, that can’t be done unless a lot of areas are affected,” Stewart said. “I understand that, and I support that.”

The bulk of the cuts came in two areas — $109,000 was cut from athletics based on recommendations based on the Higher Education Price Index, an inflation index that calculates potential financial waste at colleges, while $26,000 was cut by reducing funds given to athletics from the school. That $26,000 is part of a larger plan to eliminate a total of $132,000 from the athletics department’s budget over the next five years.

Stewart said he worked with President Gary Ransdell and the WKU administrative council to make sure the cuts in funding were relatively easy to work around.

“It was obvious that athletics had to be a part of the budget cuts, and I credit President Ransdell and our entire administrative council — we had a lot of conversations on this topic,” Stewart said. “We looked at a lot of areas and I think, ultimately, what really was derived to come up with over two million dollars in budget cuts was really very fair, involved a lot of different areas, and was the best way to move forward.”

Finances have been a big story for Topper athletics this year. WKU recently made football coach Bobby Petrino the highest paid coach in school history and is expected to pay a $2 million entrance fee over the course of the next couple of years to join Conference USA.

Stewart said that move to C-USA and the revenue that will come in through the conference’s television deal should benefit the WKU athletics department, despite the entrance fee.

“We don’t get any conference revenues right now, so to speak, and certainly we need to increase our revenues moving forward,” he said. “That’s what Conference USA will enable us to do.”

Stewart said the budget cuts will not affect one sport more than another — the entire department will be pinching pennies for a little while.

“It’ll affect our operations,” he said. “There’s no specific cut to any specific sport or anything like that, we’ll just have to get a little bit leaner in terms of how we operate because that’s the area that the money was taken from.”