Some University of Akron sports teams could see reductions over the next three years under a plan to stem the flow of money from the university's general fund to the athletic department.

The university — which provided $22.8 million from the general fund to athletics this year — aims to reduce the subsidy by $8 million over the next few years.

This will be achieved through about $3 million in cuts and $5 million in revenue increases, starting next year with a $1 million reduction, interim President John Green said.

Green said he does not expect any sports will be cut completely, but some programs could have their budgets reduced and goals re-prioritized away from national competition.

"Some hard choices will have to be made about the sports that we compete in," Green said following a presentation to the university's board of trustees on Friday.

With declining enrollment, the university is cost-cutting and shifting priorities across campus, including offering buyouts or early retirements to about half the faculty.

Green will present the 2020 budget to the board in a full business meeting next week.

The $1 million less Green plans to transfer from the general fund to the athletic department includes both administrative cuts and expected increased revenue from ticket sales. The plan is for cuts and increases to be $500,000 each.

No one is losing their job due to the cuts for next year, Green said, but money available for athletic training and game day operations will decrease.

Revenue increases, he said, are expected to come from the football team, with the expectation that the hiring of new head coach Tom Arth should improve the program.

"We're very hopeful that our football program will generate new revenues," Green said. "I think it's going to be a much more successful program."

Athletic Director Larry Williams, reached by phone after the meeting, called the tightening of his department's budget a "daunting objective," but a process that improves greatly if revenues from ticket sales increase.

"If we reach the targets, great, our future is easier," Williams said. "If we have a shortfall, our future is going to be even more daunting, so that's the way we're approaching it."

The athletic department changes will mirror ones made on the university's academic side. Akron recently conducted a review of its program offerings to determine what areas are best for investment moving forward. Degrees with low enrollment, or ones that have stiff competition at nearby institutions like Kent State University, will be discontinued.

While Green said he doesn't expect cuts to entire athletic programs, some may shrink.

"Of course we're going to try to compete, but the question is at what level do we compete?" he said. "Because it's expensive in any sport to compete at the national level."

He used the university's newly revived baseball team as an example. They chose to bring back the team but not offer athletic scholarships unless they have a donor to fund them. A donor is also building the team a new artificial turf field.

The goal of the program, Green said, is not to make the College World Series, but rather to offer the sport to students and the community.

An emphasis on in-state recruiting, he said, aims to increase attendance at games.

"People will want to come and watch their friends' and neighbors' teams play," Green said.

 

Staff writer George Thomas contributed to this report. Contact Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.