Bulldog athletics in the red

Bryan Cole / The Collegian
Current economic crisis and dwindling attendance numbers pose budget problems for the Fresno State athletic department

From underdogs to wonderdogs, Fresno State’s baseball team saw a miracle last year.

In 2009, it seems as though Fresno State’s athletic department budget might need a miracle, too.
Attendance figures for the three major Fresno State sports — football, men’s basketball, and baseball — are all down.

With a current $25 million dollar operating budget, the university’s athletic department generates approximately 85 percent of its total revenue on its own.

In an economy that’s spiraling nationwide, Bulldog fans might wonder if that current budget model is sufficient.

According to Associate Athletics Director Paul Ladwig, the athletic department’s main revenue source — 85 percent — comes from Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) monies.

This revenue is generated through marketing and branding initiatives, licensing, fundraising and ticket sales. An additional 14 percent comes from the university’s general fund; 1 percent comes from student fees.

Fresno State athletics, then, must generate almost its entire budget without much help from the university.

Attendance drops

Although Fresno State’s baseball team accomplished the unimaginable, recently winning a College World Series title, total attendance from 2006 to 2007 was down 22 percent — 82,679 in 2006 down to 65,160 in 2007.

Fresno State’s men’s basketball team, which has been rebuilding under fourth-year coach Steve Cleveland, has also seen a shortage in attendance.

Total attendance from the 2006-07 season to the 2007-08 season was down 9 percent — 210,828 in 2006-07 down to 192,345 in 2007-08.

The Fresno State football team, which had a losing record in 2006 and hasn’t won a Western Athletic Conference title in recent years, also saw an attendance drop.

Total football attendance from 2006 to 2007 was down 6 percent — 231,307 in 2006 down to 217,743 in 2007.

Matt Weir / The Collegian

Although numbers show the decline in fan support at Fresno State sporting events, the current poor economy and the performance of Bulldog teams aren’t the only factors.

“Do I believe success of teams affects ticket sales? I do,” Ladwig said. “But there is so much more that goes into it.”

In addition to the baseball team’s recent success, Ladwig pointed to several other accomplishments as being good for Bulldog athletics.

Ladwig expressed enthusiasm about the Bulldog football team’s recent New Mexico Bowl invitation. “And [we have] a women’s basketball team that won a championship and will advance to the NCAA,” Ladwig said.

“We will continue to pursue all of the revenue venues in which we do and I don’t see wins and losses or the economy creating shortfalls,” he said.

Martina Buckley, associate athletic director for business operations, thinks the athletic department should remain open to options.

She believes that with the current economy and the current state of some of our athletic teams, adjustments to the athletic department’s budget model might need to be made.

“The athletics department will have to come up with creative ways of generating funds and even more creative ways of limiting expenses,” Buckley said.

“The performance of all of our teams is also essential to the success of the athletics department. This administration will continue to try to budget in a manner that will allow consistency.”

Juan Villa / The Collegian
Students have to pay

Regardless of the athletic department’s budget model, Fresno State students — and their wallets — may still be feeling the effects of their contribution to campus sports.

Last spring, the athletic department asked for a new Instructionally Related Activity fee of $60,600 from students to fund the university’s two newest sports, women’s lacrosse and women’s swimming and diving.

The university added the two sports to comply with federal Title IX gender equity rules.

“The total expense of the two new programs is $1,340,600 and the total monies coming in from the IRA are $1,280,000,” Buckley said.

Knowing there would be a large difference in the funding needed, Buckley said that the additional money requested from students was only the amount that was needed to fund the two new sports.

“The difference in the two new program expenses and what we received from the IRA was $60,000 plus; that is the additional money that we asked for specifically from the students,” Buckley said. “The increase was $32 per student, per semester.”

Although students initially vetoed the fee referendum last April, the Campus Fee Advisory Committee passed a modified recommendation anyway.

While both attendance and the economy may be on rocky ground, Buckley said that she hopes students don’t feel like the athletic department’s problem — finding ways to generate more money within its budget model — will fully become their problem.

“We’re getting a small sliver from the student fees, another small sliver from the university and then all the rest we have to generate ourselves,” Buckley said.

“We don’t ever want the students to think that we don’t appreciate them and what they do for our student athletes and the department.”

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