San Diego State is proposing a student-fee increase that would fund two new women’s sports teams – lacrosse and beach volleyball – and provide enough additional funding to wean the athletic department off of controversial subsidies from the president’s office.
The proposal for fall 2009 would increase students’ activities fee from $190 to $350 a year. This would mean as much as $4.5 million more for the athletic department, which would help relieve annual budget pressures stemming in large part from persistent football revenue shortfalls.
“It’s intended to address some of the long-term budget issues we have in the athletic department,” SDSU spokesman Jack Beresford said.
If implemented, non-NCAA club sports at SDSU also would see their combined budget increase from $5,000 to about $375,000 annually.
The measure was proposed by the SDSU administration and will not be subject to a student referendum, unlike in 2004, when students voted against increasing the same fee from $30 to $190 annually. SDSU President Stephen Weber overrode that vote, imposing it then because he said “it needed to be done.”
This time, SDSU instead will use “alternative consultation” with various campus constituencies before Weber makes the final decision. The two new women’s teams would help SDSU meet California State University gender-equity guidelines for scholarship rates. Those teams could begin competition in 2010 or 2011.
SDSU student government President James Poet is endorsing the fee increase.
“The reason I (endorsed) this is I realized how important athletics are to our university,” he said. “Think of how important it is to donors and alumni. . . . And for students, coming from a school with a Division I program makes our degrees more valuable. It makes our reputation soar.”
SDSU English professor Peter Herman previously has criticized what he perceives to be a “bailout” for athletics from Weber each year because of football failures. He doesn’t see this as fair for faculty either. Because of state budget cuts this year, SDSU has larger class sizes and fewer faculty.
“Why has the president not proposed a fee increase to offset the cuts to the educational budget?” Herman asked. “Why are students asked to pay out of pocket when nobody goes to the games, but not to help the library or decrease class sizes?”
Of the nearly $4.5 million that would come to athletics from the fee increase, about $1 million would fund the new women’s teams. About $3 million would replace the president’s discretionary funding that’s been going to athletics recently from a university broadband contract with Sprint Nextel.
Some SDSU faculty believed that money should go to academics.
“That was one of the goals behind doing this: It gives us more stable funding device, and frees that money up for something other than us,” said Chuck Lang, SDSU’s assistant athletic director for business administration.
Last year, the activities fee contributed $6.3 million annually to SDSU athletics, in addition to about $6 million from the general fund and $3.3 million from the broadband contract. Those combined university allocations of around $15 million comprise about half of the SDSU athletics budget, twice the Division I-A average for university subsidies, according to NCAA research.
With two new women’s teams, SDSU would add about 20 new grants-in-aid for women: 12 for lacrosse and around eight for “sand volleyball,” an emerging NCAA sport.
In July, a CSU report said SDSU has been more than 6 percent under its female grants-in-aid target rate the past two years. The grants-in-aid target for CSU schools is to be within 5 percentage points of the proportion of NCAA-eligible female and male undergraduates. SDSU’s undergraduate population recently has been about 57 percent female.
SDSU has six men’s sports, which by NCAA rules are limited to 128.6 grants-in-aid, including 85 for football. SDSU has 12 women’s sports, which are limited to 127 total grants-in-aid.
To meet the target, SDSU could have added women’s sports or reduced its men’s scholarships, which the school ruled out because the NCAA requires Division I schools to have a minimum of six men’s sports.
CSU’s gender-equity guidelines stem from a settlement agreement with the California National Organization for Women (Cal-NOW), which sued CSU in 1993. The agreement compelled CSU schools to reach gender-equity targets by 1999. Since then, CSU officials have followed the settlement objectives on a voluntary basis.
Instead of subjecting the proposed fee increase to a vote, SDSU Associate Vice President Scott Burns said that Poet and the SDSU administration decided it would be better “having a dialogue and informing people as opposed to having a process dictated by referendum.”
Each Cal State school has separate campus fees. SDSU’s have increased from $442 annually five years ago to $706 this year. However, SDSU’s campus fees are still below the systemwide average, which is $801 per year.