Posted at 4 p.m. May 1, 2017

Profit vs. cost: How Athletics contributes

Flag Raising

Illustration by Floyd Whiting

When Laramie County Community College was facing a $2.5 million budget cut last semester, the Athletic Department was examined as a potential area in which to save money.

Financially, the Efficiency Committee, a group of LCCC faculty and staff who were tasked with making money-saving recommendations, reported the Athletic Department cost the college $1 million annually. But while athletics as a department may experience a financial loss, the department does contribute revenue back to the college while adding extra value, school officials say.

Rick Johnson, vice president for Administration and Finance, said the athletic department “in pure dollars, costs us more to have it all than the other way when just looking at dollars.”

Johnson also said, though, when evaluating the athletics department, the intangibles should also be considered. By having an athletics department or program at this school, Johnson said, there is a little bit of a draw for some students that might not otherwise want to be here.

In spring 2016, the LCCC Board of Trustees approved the reinstatement of the women’s basketball team. The addition brought 16 new students to campus who would not have otherwise considered choosing LCCC to further their education. Johnson said this increase in enrollment may contribute to an increase in the revenue seen in the Emporium, the LCCC Bookstore and other services provided on campus, in addition to contributing to an increased amount of state funding received from the Wyoming Community College Commission.

The WCCC currently provides funding to the seven Wyoming community colleges. The funding is calculated based on enrollment and program progression, with enrollment being the primary factor in determining how much each college receives. Johnson said the WCCC’s calculation model has changed since 2015 and will again be changing as the higher education models change.

“The model is changing so that it is measuring performance rather than headcount,” Johnson said.

In the 2015 fiscal year, the WCCC funding model showed the funding calculation was based 85 percent on the college’s enrollment and 15 percent on the students’ course completion. In the 2017 fiscal year, the funding calculation model was changed to mainly favor enrollment, but also give weight to participation, course completion and also the types of courses the college offers, such as distance education, traditional classrooms, highly technical, and laboratory courses.

Moving forward, Johnson said, the WCCC will again change the funding model. Starting in the 2019 fiscal year, the aforementioned traits, with the addition of a measurement of progress (whether or not degrees and certificates were achieved), will be the new funding calculation model. Johnson said because of the shift in the funding model, the addition of women’s basketball alone is projected to earn an estimated $74,000 in the 2019 fiscal year.

Real costs vs. perceived costs

In the meantime, suggestions were made in fall 2016 to the Efficiency Committee for reducing expenses within the department to minimize the Athletic Department’s reported loss.

One of the suggestions in the Efficiency Committee report, which was ultimately not adopted by the President’s Cabinet, for reducing the athletic department’s expenses was to “limit the recruiting range for athletic teams to within one business day’s drive of campus. We currently recruit students from as far away as Brazil and New Zealand. This is not necessary and is a waste of resources for the benefit of a very few.” The 2017 fiscal year’s budget for athlete recruitment is $16,975.

Scott Noble, LCCC director of Athletics, explained the recruiting process as being a 38-week process for the approximate 14-week sports season.

“It’s all about networking, building relationships, and answering the phone,” Noble said. The international students who attend LCCC as a student athlete are often because of a phone call from a high school coach who thinks the athlete would be a good fit for LCCC. Da’Zhon Wyche, a men’s basketball player from Alaska, came to LCCC because his head coach reached out to Noble on his behalf to further Wyche’s education while doing what he loves — playing basketball, Noble said.

Noble said he also receives calls from four-year institutions that have athletes who are academically ineligible to play because of transcripts not transferring completely or low ACT scores. Jemma House, LCCC women’s soccer player, is one of those student-athletes. Noble said House was recruited by the University of Wyoming, but after examining her transcripts, it was determined that all of her courses were not able to fully transfer from Australia to UW. Noble said House would have been able to attend UW as a student but not able to participate as an athlete. Because of this, Noble said the UW head soccer coach gave him a call to give House a chance at being an Australian student-athlete at LCCC for two years before transferring to UW to finish her education and collegiate playing career.

Contributing to the community

While the athletics department is able to bring diversity to the campus via the recruiting of student-athletes across the nation as well as internationally, it is also able to continuously work toward bringing a sense of community to campus.

Noble said in fall 2016 the athletics department brought back the tradition of homecoming with campus events during the week and a homecoming parade building up to the weekend’s home soccer and volleyball games. Traditionally, homecoming is held during football season, but since LCCC does not have a football team, Noble said home volleyball and soccer games were chosen for homecoming.

Noble also said the Athletics Department, with the support of administration and Student Government Association, built a sand volleyball court between the Science Center and the Residence Hall. The addition of the court gave the opportunity for the students in the Residence Hall to organize a midnight madness volleyball tournament, which Noble said had portable lights provided by the Athletics Department. The court is open any time. Noble said all students need to do is check out a ball from either the Residence Hall or the Athletic Department.

In January 2017, the Athletics Department formed a Student Athletes Advisory Committee. This committee was formed to find opportunities in the Cheyenne community as well as on campus for the Athletic Department and its student-athletes to contribute their time and effort.

One opportunity that was presented is the campus’s food Pantry. Noble said in the past, the Athletic Department has been a big supporter of the Pantry, collecting food during home volleyball and basketball games. Recently, Noble said SAAC learned the Pantry will need a new operator. Since the Athletic Department has been such a supporter, Noble said the idea was proposed that the department take over the Pantry’s operations. Noble also said SAAC is considering taking over the operation of the Pantry to benefit the LCCC campus community. However, Noble said there are a lot of logistics in running the food pantry that need to be planned for, such as team practice times, game times, the athletes’ individual workout schedules, study times, classes, etc. In addition, Noble said there needs to be a system developed to track inventory to make sure the Pantry has what students need. Noble said there is a lot of planning that needs to be done in order for the athletic department to make sure it can take on the responsibility full-time and do it to the best of its ability.

“Because we are athletes, we have a highly competitive edge. That makes us want to do what we do and do it well,” Noble said.

Other plans and projects under consideration are the additions of other recreational options to campus, similar to what is offered at the Universities of Colorado and Wyoming, Noble said. The most current project is the addition of a disc golf course to campus. Noble said the course has already been plotted, the target baskets are already ordered, and the anticipated opening of the course is fall 2017. Noble said he is thinking about the idea of a student vs. faculty disc golf scramble.

“The course will be open to LCCC students as well as the Cheyenne community,” Noble said.

A couple of the other recreation suggestions that are in the running for the future, sponsored by the athletic department, include: providing paddle boards for use at the lakes in Curt Gowdy State Park or Sloans Lake in Cheyenne and bicycles for riding in town or on trails in Curt Gowdy State Park.


More

College Athletic Department players, coaches donate time to improve community relations