UCA Athletics Compromise

Academics, athletics both important to UCA, officials say

University of Central Arkansas officials will make changes to placate faculty whose ire was raised over money going to athletic program pay raises, bonuses and facilities when faculty can’t have the same, said associate professor Brian Bolter, who heads a committee looking into athletics funding.

“I think everyone is happy with the outcome that we’ve discussed,” Bolter said.

Athletics Department Director Brad Teague plans to explain benefits — including scholarships his program provides — and say what he is willing to do differently during the Faculty Senate meeting Thursday.

The rift between academics and athletics caused tense meetings among faculty. Money was tight at UCA, faculty were doing without raises and raises to coaches caused faculty to want to look into funding for the program, faculty said.

“If everything else had been going financially well, we’d be saying, ‘Good for you,’” Faculty Senate President Kevin Browne said during the board retreat Friday.

Last year, some coaches received pay raises and bonuses when academic faculty did not. Faculty did receive one-time $1,000 bonuses, but they have seen only one pay raise in the past five years.

Athletics also benefits from money from the housing fund, supported by student fees living on campus. Some coaches are paid by the tutoring center funds to supplement salaries. The athletic program was paid much of the $2 million from the last 10-year beverage service contract, which came open for bid again this year.

On top of those issues, some faculty pointed to new athletic facilities that went up even as the science building continued to flood during wet weather. Programs are “starving” for money, Browne said.

Bolter said he and other officials met recently, and athletics agreed to go through the same process of getting new money as all other departments. That means the pay raises would have gone to a committee and at least had an advisory process, Bolter said.

Coaches will also be removed from academic support positions, including tutoring at the Academic Success Center, Bolter said. Officials also agreed to put on student bills that 5 percent of housing goes to fund the athletics program, he said.

Tentatively, administrators have also agreed not to increase the amount of money the athletics department may get under a new contract for beverage services with Coca-Cola Refreshment Co. Any advertising Coke might do that is athletics oriented, like ads on the scoreboard, would go to the program, but the department wouldn’t see an increase of money from the new contract, Bolter said.

Under current allocations, $70,000 goes to athletics, $25,000 goes to housing and $25,000 goes to the student center per year, UCA records show.

Under the new contract, with the same distribution, UCA would have an extra $93,000 to spend. That money could be distributed to other parts of campus, Bolter said.

The contract is expected to be for about $2.2 million over 10 years. But the contract is not final, officials said.

Teague said Friday athletics gives $3 million for scholarships, double what was given before going to Division I in 2010.

The program is funded mostly by student fees at $5 million, not academic-side money, Teague said. Then auxiliary funds account for $1.3 million and outside sources are $1.7 million, he said. UCA uses $1.1 million from educational and general funds and is under the state cap on what it uses, Teague said.

The program also brings in money from contracts for big games Teague is putting together. In the coming years, games with Texas Tech, Colorado and Kansas State will net UCA about $400,000 a piece, Teague said.

There is value in athletics and in academics, Teague said. He talked Friday about his program’s ability to keep students in school, get them on-campus housing and recruit students.

“It washes out,” Teague said.

Professor Don Bradley III, who had brought up questions about athletic facilities previously, said Monday the agreement and dialogue is a great first step for smoothing over faculty concerns.

“The problem is there’s not enough money to go around,” Bradley said.

UCA is climbing out of a deep deficit, reaching about $12 million this fiscal year, but trustees said last week the school needs more money if it wants to do all of the new facility proposals, maintenance and pay raises under consideration.

That includes a new $70 million science center that several trustees said they wanted to see built.

Bradley said officials are now more aware that they must spend more time on academic needs, not just athletic needs.

“Have we solved the whole problem? No,” Bradley said. “But, we’re making progress. At least people are talking and trying to work together.”

(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at scarlet.sims@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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