By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
As Concord University looks for ways to get along with less state money in its new budget, one voice is questioning money being spent on athletics.
Katrena Bolin, a Concord staff member who used to work as an accountant in the CU business office, contacted the Daily Telegraph earlier this week. She said that she is frustrated by not being able to tell from where the money is being drawn that is currently being spent for athletics.
“Let’s have a true picture of how much of their (students’) tuition and fees ... is being expensed for athletics,” she said. “All I’m trying to do is to educate people about what’s happening.”
Concord athletics director Kevin Garrett said there are around 330 student-athletes who compete for CU. That is approximately 13 percent of the entire student population.
The institution’s vice president for business and finance, Dr. Charles Becker, said the athletics budget is approximately $3.6 million, or about 8.8 percent of the university’s total operating budget.
Bolin alleges that this year, there is “a huge cash deficit in our athletic funds, just like WVU.”
That is strongly disputed by Concord administrators.
President Gregory F. Aloia said on Thursday, “There is no deficit. ... The last two years, they have under-spent by about $75,000 each year.”
Becker said the athletics office has not over-spent its budgeted amount in the years he has been in charge of the institution’s financial picture.
Efficiencies put in place “across the university,” Aloia said, “pay off in terms of us being good stewards of state money.”
He said an athletic advisory committee works with Garrett.
“They give him good counsel,” the president said. “They are a strong and important connection with various units on campus — students, faculty, staff and the athletic program itself.”
“We’re proud of the program we have.”
Garrett said, “Both myself and my coaches work extremely hard to economize. Just in terms of the travel budget alone, coaches may take a day trip (for an athletic contest on the road), and go up and back the same day, when it is in the best interest of a competitive situation to stay overnight. ...”
“They look for ways they could maybe stretch a set of uniforms out for another year” rather than buy new ones more often, he said. “We even look for the best prices we can get when we go out to eat when we’re on the road.”
Garrett provided information that since the spring 2011 semester, Concord has produced 90 all-conference athletes, 17 all-Americans, four academic all-Americans, six conference players of the year, four coaches of the year, 12 NCAA playoff appearances, and one NCAA national champion, Shawnee Carnett in the 800-meter run.
Aloia said about athletics, “What is most important is that it has to set a high standard.”
“Kevin and his coaches are setting standards for academics and graduation rates,” Aloia said. “It is an interconnected and interrelated part of our culture. ... Without that academic anchor, it’s all rhetoric.”
He said Concord students “have basically demonstrated you can be a good student and a good athlete. And that is due in large part to the commitment on the part of Kevin and his coaches.”
With regard to budgets at Concord, all agree on one important fact: It is legal in West Virginia for state colleges and universities to draw from accounts other than those earmarked to athletics in order to pay its bills — with certain specific exceptions, such as accounts of state-funded capital improvement projects.
On the biggest-college level, USA Today reported last May that in 2011, just 22 of 227 public schools in NCAA Division I generated enough money to make their athletics program self-sustaining.
A Morgantown columnist, Mickey Furfari, has said that West Virginia University athletics finished the last fiscal year $13 million in the red on June 30, 2012.
Bolin earned a business degree from Concord summa cum laude (with highest honors). She now works in CU’s Academic Success Center.
“I love Concord and I know this could change the rest of my life,” she said. “I believe I’m doing the right thing and I believe that with all my heart and my soul.”
Bolin said she planned to share her concerns about spending on athletics and budget accountability with the university’s board of governors on Tuesday.
However, the board started its official meeting by going into executive session for more than four and a half hours, and Bolin was not present when the board convened for a very brief public session at about 5:45 p.m.
The only action taken was to vote unanimously to adjourn until April 25, on a motion by member Lane Bailey. Bolin later said she plans to be present for next week’s meeting.
An unrelated action item on the agenda for that meeting is approval of a request to raise tuition and fees at Concord for the upcoming academic year.
Becker said the board’s finance and facilities committee is recommending a 5 percent increase, which will amount to $143 per semester for in-state students and $317 per term for out-of-state students.
“We don’t want to take any more than we think we need,” Becker said on Tuesday.
He also said an 8.94 percent budget cut in appropriations mandated by the state government will mean $912,000 less in state money coming to Concord in the fiscal year starting July 1.
He said the Concord administration looked for ways to trim next year’s budget, and considered the upcoming year’s enrollment projections, before determining how much of an increase in tuition and fees to recommend.
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org