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Student Senate pushes Athletic Dept. to lower athletics fee

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 01:02

The Student Senate unanimously voted on Sunday night to request that the UNH Athletic Department change how it uses the student athletics fee so that students see more of a return on what they pay. Student Activity Fee Committee Chair Bryan Merrill proposed the resolution, saying he believes that either the fee should be lowered or UNH students should receive more for their money. 

“You either lower the burden on UNH students or you increase the benefits,” he said at the senate meeting. 

For fiscal year 2013, students were required to pay a $954 athletics fee. The fee was recently approved for a 3 percent increase for fiscal year 2014, raising it to $983. Currently, the mandatory fee only covers tickets to sporting events. If a student went to every single game for every sport, it would be a value of $675. Merrill calculated, however, that the average student goes to five football games and 10 hockey games, which only uses about $220 of the fee.

“The Athletic fee has been a topic of interest and concern, not only for the Student Senate, but also for the university and the Athletic Department, for years,” Mark Rubinstein, vice president of student and academic services, said in an email. “Among the challenges are that athletics is not a pure ‘auxiliary’ like Campus Recreation or Dining (and this is true at virtually every college and university in the country that participates in intercollegiate athletics, particularly at “Division I” level) and that the value to students and to the university is not exclusively a function of attending events, but also includes the goodwill and positive regard that successful and well-run programs generate for the institution and for our students and alumni.”

The athletics department uses the remaining money to fund the program as well as pay for the scholarships that student athletes receive and maintain a good image as a Division 1 school. The members of the Student Senate do not find this to be fair to students, but Athletic Director Marty Scarano said that it’s necessary. 

“Whether it’s fair or not is not for me to say, but if we didn’t have the fee then there wouldn’t be an athletic program,” he said.

According to Scarano, $26 million per year is needed to fund the athletics program, and cutting down the fee at all would put it in debt. He said he is sympathetic to students and understands that it is a lot of money. 

“The cost is expensive,” he said. “There’s no denying that.” 

Scarano said that the athletic department is currently working to find out what is of value to students so that they can get more for their money. Merrill is working with them to create an athletic think tank to generate ideas that will give students more benefits. 

“Increasing value will be much easier than cutting costs,” Merrill said.

Merrill said he hopes something can be done because it’s not fair to students to have to pay for something that doesn’t affect them. The resolution will now be brought to Scarano, UNH President Mark Huddleston and the Board of Trustees. Merrill believes that change will happen immediately, although it will be small.

The Student Senate business manager, William McKernon, also had ideas about the likeliness of changes.

“Unless there is a major change in alumni relations, I don’t anticipate the cost going down,” McKerson said, adding that he believes the value and benefits will increase.

The Student Senate Public Relations Manager, Al Pace, is not so sure that change will be so easy. 

“I think that it will be difficult to see any direct change come out of this resolution, as it is more of a wake-up and call to action for both athletics and students,” Pace said. He said he hopes that students become aware of how this issue is affecting them.

Merrill, McKernon and Pace all agreed that as of right now most students don’t know that their money is being used in this way. Many students are aware that there is a fee, but they don’t know how it is broken down. 

“It’s really a shock factor because they don’t know,” McKernon said.

The student senators said they are working hard to resolve this issue without causing any new ones. 

“We’re not trying to create a divide between students and athletics,” Merrill said. He went on to say that they are not trying to put down the program, but that they want to do what’s right for the students. “We’re trying to close the gap between the value realized and the amount we pay into it.” 

According to Rubinstein, the efforts of the athletic department regarding this issue have been evident. 

“Throughout Athletic Director Scarano’s tenure at UNH, he and his staff have worked hard both to control costs and to find ways to increase the value that students associate with this fee,” he said. “ …In that regard, this resolution — that asks Athletics to either reduce costs further or improve students’ perception of value — is perfectly timed.”

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11 comments

Duke
Thu Feb 21 2013 16:16
@Anonymouse

Great article, but I don't know if the issue here is not how much is spent per athlete (which, granted, is a national issue), but how much UNH students and state taxpayers are asked to subsidize the athletes here. Look at the difference in funding sources between FBS and FCS schools. As tragic as it may seem, it may not be worth the money for schools like UNH to have varsity sports.

I also think any criticism against the the athletic department also has to be measured against the good things it does do, like providing opportunities to students who might not otherwise be able to afford an education, making the university a more diverse place, and possibly attracting nonathlete out-of-state students who pay more to come here. I just don't know if those things make up to the losses.

Frustrated Student
Thu Feb 21 2013 10:26
Perhaps the best course of action here would be for someone (a motivated TNH journalist) to actually really look at the numbers. Even if the student fee is $1000 and even if there are 13,000 unh students paying the fee (which there are not) this would be 13milion. Athletics budget is more like 32 million. So, students are paying way more than just the $985 to subsidize 600 varsity athletes. Look into how much UNH spends on a non-athlete (probably something like 3-5000 a year vs an athlete probably something like 50,000 a year - don't believe me just do the math and research!) Then there is the budget itself. File a right to know and get a real breakdown of the budget line by line to see where the money goes...banquets, scholarships, salaries, recruitment, tutors, resource rooms with extra computers, prior exams, free printing, a teacher who teaches manners and life skills (yes it is true...) all the extra things athletes get, simply for being an athlete. Help students really understand where their money goes, and help them understand that they do have a vioce in where it goes...Then file a right to know and get the alumni anual report to see what the return on the investment in athletics is. Perhaps UNH would be get a better ROI investing more in academics... Invest in the best intramural program ever and spread the wealth to all UNH students...
Anonymouse
Thu Feb 21 2013 10:12
Not sure what the ratio is for UNH, but it seems like a lot of colleges are spending way more for students involved in athletics than students not involved in them. Almost every department in UNH has had to take cuts, so it isn't unreasonable to ask Athletics to do the same

http://deadspin.com/5976391/sec-schools-spend-163931-per-athlete-and-other-ways-the-ncaa-is-a-bonfire-for-your-money

Duke
Tue Feb 19 2013 16:49
"Value for a game cannot be determined by a single number"

God I hope you're not a WSBE student.

Duke
Tue Feb 19 2013 16:46
@Anonymous 14:08

The difference between the student activity fee and the athletic fee, I think, is oversight. Students orgs have business managers and presidents that manage their budgets, and must get approval from other students on the SAF committee. They are held accountable to their spending decisions, and are sometimes denied requests for increased funding. It's an accountable, accessible system. No one is barred from joining an org, or from attending SAF meetings.

By the same token, everyone who pays the activity fee has access to the student attorney including student athletes. However, not everyone has access to the tutors and training facilities that are given to the school's athletes.

And please, show me the businesses that are jumping at the chance to hire UNH grads based on the "prestige" of our athletic programs. We're not some good old boy university. There is very little alumni support from business leaders, as evidenced by the fact that it's taken damn near seven years to get enough funding for the Paul building.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 19 2013 14:20
"...should receive more for their money." As a diehard fan of not just UNH athletics, but sports everywhere, I ask everyone out there to join with me and say that there is no number that can determine the value of a sporting event. Receive more for their money? At my first ever college football game EVER, UNH returned the opening kickoff all the way down field for a touchdown. I did not find myself calculating whether that game had given me my a return for the fee I had paid. No, I was jumping up and down going absolutely nuts. Should there decide to be a drop in the athletics fee, moments like this would not be possible. How about the time Paul Thompson scored against Maine with less than 20 seconds to go to put the hockey team up by one. I can all but guarantee you that there was not one person in the Whittemore Center who was sitting idly around wondering if they were getting enough value for the ticket. When there are 6,501 screaming fans who just blew the roof off the Whit, the last thing on your mind is money. Value for a game cannot be determined by a single number. It is the memories that you will take with you for the rest of your life, and the stories that Wildcat Country will be talking about 20 years from now. So maybe the monetary value does not come out to be equal; the value you place on a single game is determined solely by what you make of it, and what you can take away from the game. Some people may choose to complain that they are not receiving enough for the fee they pay, but I choose to bleed blue and white forever, and let my emotions and memories dictate the value of athletics.
Duke
Tue Feb 19 2013 14:13
You know what would get students to support a higher athletic fee? Winning.

Or how about at least showing sense of urgency from the athletic department. The school cut four or five varsity sports in '05, but at that time the hockey and football teams looked like they were poised to contend for a national championship. There was even some hope for the basketball team.

That moment's now past. Football hit its ceiling, the hockey team had to rebuild and the basketball team is a doormat, even by America East standards.

The school should take the tickets out of the student fee and sell them all at face value. But they won't do that because they don't have a good enough product to build a large, loyal fan base - so they'll keep the students on the hook.

Anonymous
Tue Feb 19 2013 14:08
I think if we are to reduce the athletics fee, we might as well reduce the student activity fee. Why pay for a student lawyer that many students do not need because they don't need to be bailed out of trouble for illegal use of alcohol and drugs? Why fund a student government that is too naive to see the value of an athletics program? Do providing movies at a reduced rate really provide such an increased value to the students? Why pay for a student newspaper that consistently publishes articles like these that are completely ignorant and uninformed? Well you may say the student activity fee is a tenth of the cost of the athletics fee and yes I understand that is a glaring difference. What this article does not seem to comprehend is the significance of a division one athletics program to a University. The UNH Athletics Department brings in tens of corporate sponsors a year, who in turn, establish relationships with the University and look to hire our students for internships and jobs. UNH Athletics is a prominent cause that students even want to apply and come here to spend their tuition dollars. The UNH Athletics Department is a major reason and source of donations from alumni and outside parties to fund numerous activities and programs this University offers. UNH Athletics provides hundreds of students and student-athletes the opportunity to expand their collegiate experience by working in teams, skills that many of us don't realize how important they are in the workplace. The Athletics Department provides a brand to the state, region and nation that we can all be proud of and associate with. I'm not sure even the UNH Student Senate has the same resonance within the community on a national scale. Yes, I realize not all of us take advantage of UNH Athletics and for many sports are not a huge interest or passion. But don't tell me this department doesn't provide as much, if not more value, than other organizations we have to pay for like the Student Lawyer or the TNH, resources a large majority of students do not utilize. Maybe the Student Senate can take a look at the amount of people the Wildcats impact in this community and around the country, in addition to the value it brings back to the University and its students, then just maybe they might be able to see the value UNH Athletics brings to the table and I'm pretty sure that value certainly amounts to at minimum the value the Student Senate brings to the student population.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 19 2013 13:49
I am more than willing to get rid of the athletics program altogether. I fail to see how it is an important, viable part of our higher education. The $900 dollar fee could go to so many different, more important things on campus
Anonymous
Tue Feb 19 2013 13:16
Merrill's calculation that the average student goes to five football games is way off base. There are only five games. If the average student went to all five of them our attendance at football games would be incredibly higher.
Anonymous
Tue Feb 19 2013 10:27
As an unpaid student intern for the Athletics department, I work on average twelve hours per week for the department on a team with ten other interns. I know that there is no way that Athletics can cut costs, they are constantly pinching pennies just like everyone else at UNH. They do their best to provide their values of Tradition, Pride, and Excellence to students with what they have. With six ticketed sports of Football, Men's and Women's Basketball, Men's and Women's Ice Hockey, and Gymnastics as well as numerous other varsity sports, students can create their own value simply by attending games. With more support from students, hmmm maybe Athletics would even gain more recognition and receive more alumni donations to improve the program. When you actually look into what they are doing and the number of people that work in the department, $26 million is not very much. I think Senate should have done more research before making this suggestion.




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