Back in the game

Members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee (IAC) listen as Thomasine Heitkamp (bottom center), professor in social work, speaks during Mondays meeting at Robin Hall.

Nick Nelson

Members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee (IAC) listen as Thomasine Heitkamp (bottom center), professor in social work, speaks during Monday’s meeting at Robin Hall.

Liz Kacher, Staff Writer

The Intercollegiate Athletic Committee (IAC) met Monday afternoon to discuss the sports the university would be able to economically retain in the future. After two hours of passionate discussion, committee members made the decision to recommend to President Kennedy that all 20 sports should continue to be sponsored by UND.

The IAC had previous met on Monday Oct. 10, where they allowed the coaches whose teams faced getting cut, a chance to plea for the future of their programs. Student athletes were also in attendance and were able to present while their coach was speaking.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the sports that had the potential of being cut were M/W tennis, M/W swimming and diving, M/W golf, W soccer and softball.

The sports that were considered safe prior to Tuesday’s meeting were football, M/W hockey, M/W basketball, M/W track and field and cross country.

Tuesday, President Kennedy issued a statement in which he agreed with their recommendation. UND will continue to sponsor all 20 sports. The committee authorized Kennedy to invest up to $7.3 million in additional institutional support to do so.

In addition to the $7.3 million of institutional support, the committee proposed to increase ticket prices by 25 percent across all sports for which tickets are required, also increase the distribution of ticket revenue from 48 percent to 60 percent, scholarships to fully fund each sport in allocation of scholarships permitted by NCAA, and to reduce the number of complimentary tickets, and restructure the agreements with the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Alerus Center.

Committee members were able to come to a common consensus which was in part, inspired by the passionate stories of the coaches and the importance of their programs to the athletes as well as the community.

Nov. 1 was the deadline the IAC was given to examine conference affiliation, athletic department finances, as well as the number of sports it sponsors and the number of athletes on the rosters. The committee served as advisory to President Kennedy as he made the final decisions of whether or not to cut certain programs.

It’s been a long journey for the Kennedy-established IAC. The committee faced enormous pressure in their decision, especially after the proposed athletic cuts by Interim President Schafer last spring. Their ultimate goal was to find the best resolution they could for the student athletes with a plan the university could support.

“I don’t want to lose a single sport and I don’t want to lose a single athlete,” Sue Jeno, faculty athletic representative,  said. “That’s my role: to protect the role of the student-athletes.”

The major issue the committee was tasked to examine was which athletic teams could be cut to help close a $1.4 million budget deficit. So instead of cutting teams, they chose to find a way to reallocate the funds needed to sustain UND athletics at the highest level.

Kennedy realizes the commendation involves the agreement of others, and he acknowledged in a statement that there are some uncertainties, “We will pursue options suggested in the IAC recommendation though feel compelled to recognize the fact that all will depend on the agreement of others and uncertainty exists that such hoped for additional funding will materialize.”

The IAC firmly believes in UND athletics and success of student athletes. They realized that the recommendation would certainly involve some obstacles before they sent it to Kennedy. They balanced scenarios in which UND funded 16, 17 or 18 teams and ultimately heard the voices of the student athletes and coaches as they recommended to keep all 20 teams.

“The reality is this is a problem that needs to be borne by a lot of different stakeholders, whether it’s ticket holders, the student body as a whole, the REA and Alerus Center,” said Eric Murphy, the committee member who proposed the changes.

So the question to address now, since the proposal has been passed, is where the funding is going to come from. The committee decided on direct institutional support which will come from reallocated resources throughout the university, including academics.

Ultimately, the IAC had their vote pass 15-0 with one abstention. The passion of the players definitely affected those involved with the decision making process. While financial means were a major concern, it was more important to the IAC that the student athletes, who they consider role models on campus, were not going to bear the brunt of this problem.

Kennedy praised the IAC for its’ commitment to finding the best solution for the student athletes and his vision for One UND.

Liz Kacher is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]