RE: ETSU only Regents school not to raise athletics fees
Sorry, wasn't sure about the rules for posting the entire article but since the moderator asked. The full article is below. I don't know if I can agree about the backbone of the reporter especially since an article is printed on Sunday addressing a few of the questions raised in the ad published on Saturday. He must have got an advanced copy of the ad and went straight to Stanton so he could respond.
ETSU only Regents school not to raise athletics fees
• All other schools did so without student vote.
By SAM WATSON
Press Education Writer
Athletic fees increased this fiscal year at all Tennessee Board of Regents universities without student referendums minus one exception: East Tennessee State University.
“We wondered why we had to take a vote when (other universities) didn’t,” football booster Jerry Robertson said, referring to the ETSU football fee referendum that failed last spring. “That would be interesting to see why we had to have a referendum.”
In the April 10-11 vote, ETSU students decidedly rejected the fee increase, killing a drive to revive the university’s defunct intercollegiate football program.
ETSU President Paul Stanton ended play in 2003 but agreed last December to revive it if boosters met fundraising goals and students approved plans to raise the university’s athletic fees.
If approved by students and the Regents, ETSU’s plan would have increased the annual fee from $150 to $350 per student. Since the referendum failed, Stanton did not propose the football fee to the Regents.
But the Regents’ other five universities, all of which still have football, asked the Regents to raise fees without student votes during the spring budget cycle for the 2007-08 fiscal year.
Approved when the Regents met June 29, the increases ranged from $24 per year at Tennessee State University, Nashville, to $200 per year at the University of Memphis.
Regents Chancellor Charles Manning said the board’s policy does not define whether a university must conduct a referendum before proposing such an increase. He outlined various factors that led the other five institutions to request larger fees, such as stadium issues at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro.
The chancellor said there were two significant differences between the processes at ETSU and the other universities: It was a campus decision to conduct the referendum, and restoring football would have been a culture change requiring student support to be successful.
“The situation at East (ETSU) was a major shift,” Manning said, adding that he supported ETSU’s method. “It was Dr. Stanton’s call, but I thought it was a good one.”
Stanton said he made that call in part because the communitycampus task force he had appointed to study football’s return recommended the referendum.
“In there (the task force’s report), it was a unanimous opinion by all 13 individuals that we pursue the referendum route, because the student fee ... was essential to making (football) work, because that was the only guaranteed recurring revenue source,” Stanton said.
The ETSU president said the referendum decision also fit into his philosophy, given his concerns about how much more costs students have been forced to pay attend ETSU in recent years.
“There’s no question about it — absolutely no question,” Stanton said, pointing to figures indicating that tuition and fees per full-time student had risen from $1,050 per semester in 1997-98 to $2,443.50 per semester in 2007-08. “I think students have had too much put on them. I think such huge tuition increases are about all our students can bear.”
Stanton said the process “broke down big time” when the referendum failed.
“I had assured the students that if passed I would take their referendum to TBR for the next step in the approval process. If it didn’t pass locally, I would not take it forward.
“There’s no reason to put them through a referendum and if it ends up negative just override them. That would not be the responsible thing to do.”
Stanton noted that while the Regents and ETSU eventually implemented a fee to build the campus recreation center after a similar referendum failed earlier in his tenure as president, the Student Government Association Senate later overrode that referendum with its own vote.
“So, the SGA decided that they would be referendum group if you will, and they voted 31-1 to fund it; otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken that fee,” Stanton said, adding that the Senate method was not what SGA officers recommended for football.
The ETSU president said he was not surprised when the other Regents universities sought larger fees in the spring budget process given the cost of operating intercollegiate athletics in light of federal Title IX gender equity requirements.
“I think over time we’ll have to add some additional fees (at ETSU) just to cover Title IX, and we’re an institution without football,” Stanton said, noting a Regents cap on general fund expenditures for intercollegiate athletics. “Those with football — they don’t have any bail out.”
Stanton said ETSU appears to have few Title IX concerns without the presence of football, which he hopes a consultant’s report will confirm. But ETSU is adding a men’s soccer program. Will it exacerbate the university’s Title IX problems?
“Maybe a little bit but not anywhere close to what football does,” Stanton said. “We’re looking in soccer at less than a dozen scholarships allowed. To bring back 1-AA football you were looking at 63 (scholarships) there.
“And what we’re doing in soccer is out raising money from donors.”
Asked whether the Regents’ universities face more quandaries with retaining or eliminating football and raising fees, Manning said the University of Memphis clearly would have the best chance to garner gate receipts and television revenue to supplement its athletic budget.
“I think intercollegiate athletic fees are certain to go up,” Manning said.
Robertson, a former ETSU athletic trainer who founded the Buc Football & Friends Foundation to rally for football’s return and served on the football task force, noted that ETSU sought and received Regents approval for a $10 fee per semester to support international education programs in the Honors College without a referendum.
He also wondered how the referendum failed in light of a campus poll conducted the previous semester indicating that 60 percent of students favored increasing fees for football.
“I think the difference was that the faculty actively worked against it,” Robertson said.
The ETSU referendum asked students whether the Regents should increase ETSU’s athletic fee by $50 per semester this year and again in 2009 to support football and equivalent programs necessary for gender equity.
The existing athletic fee is $75 per semester, so had the referendum passed, students would have paid $350 per year in athletic fees beginning in fall 2009.
Stanton eliminated the football program in 2003 as the university struggled with major cutbacks in state funding and a Tennessee Higher Education Commission mandate to curb general fund expenditures for intercollegiate athletics. At the time, ETSU was devoting about $1 million from its general fund, which includes revenue from tuition and state allocations, to the football program.