CMU to give athletics $18.5 million from general fund

Central Michigan University’s operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year was approved by the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, giving university athletics a significant chunk of change.

CMU will spend approximately $25.6 million on athletics in the coming year, with $18.5 million coming from the university’s general fund.

The figure is up nearly $1 million from last year’s $24.8 million budget for CMU Athletics.

University President George Ross said athletics are an important part of the collegiate experience and the department is deserving of the funds.

“Our support of athletics mirrors our competitors in the Mid-American Conference,” Ross said. “It is an investment in those student athletes. It is part of the identity of this university.”

Ross also realizes the potential revenue stream created for CMU through its athletic department.

“We do generate several million dollars a year in revenue through athletics,” he admitted. “But that is not the ultimate rationale for the programs. If you look at other MAC schools, all of those schools subsidize their athletic programs.”

Meanwhile, Barrie Wilkes, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, said the amount CMU gives to athletics each year is small compared to a number of larger schools.

"I think we spend a very modest amount of general fund money (on athletics) for what they bring to the institution," Wilkes said. "Having said that, we would love to be in a position where athletics was able to be self-supportive. That happens with very few institutions."

Wilkes also recognized athletics as one of CMU's more diverse revenue streams.

"I think everyone would love it if we had people buying more football and basketball tickets," he said. "If we could somehow generate a larger fan base that would be a huge help to the university."

Breakdown of other MAC athletic budgets

A quick look at other MAC schools' operating budgets offers some details on what the standard has been for allocating funds around the conference.

Eastern Michigan University, for example, plans to spend $17.3 million of general fund money on athletics in the coming year said Geoff Larcom Director of Media Relations at EMU. Scholarships will account for $7.4 million of that allocation.

Last season, the Eagles finished 2-10 in football and 22-15 in men’s basketball. EMU finished 18-14 in women’s basketball and a combined 32-71 in baseball and softball.

In comparison, CMU finished 6-6 in football the same year while going 10-21 in men’s basketball. CMU arguably had its most successful women’s basketball season last year with the team finishing 20-12.

Western Michigan spent $23.1 million – a number closer to that of CMU – on athletics during the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The Broncos won last year’s MAC Championship in men’s basketball while CMU failed to advance past the first round.

"There is a relationship between success and keeping up with your peers," Wilkes said. "Does money play a factor (in winning)? In some cases, I think it does. But I also think the academic reputation of the school clearly play a huge role in the success. There are a lot of things that are involved. I don't know if money is the biggest one."



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