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Money is tight everywhere

It costs a lot to operate a high school, junior college or college sports program

Posted: July 31, 2009 8:27 p.m.
Updated: August 1, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The word comes up in almost every aspect of the current American economy and sports are no different at the high school, junior college and collegiate athletic levels.

“We have had to make adjustments across the board,” said The Master’s College athletic director Paul Berry. “The amount it costs to run a program has had to be a adjusted pretty much everywhere. We have had to find ways to raise more funds.”

The story is the same at College of the Canyons where they are feeling a budget pinch this year more than any time that current athletic director Chuck Lyon can recall.

“We never really know exactly what are budgets,” Lyon said. “It’s not the best way to have to go about it, but it is how we have to do it because we don’t know how much money we are going to have because it has to do with things that go on in Sacramento so we kind of just spend and adjust.”

One advantage community colleges have over four-year colleges is the fact that they do not give out scholarships. The Master’s budgeted $1,000,000 for 150 scholarshiped athletes this year.

The average scholarship is roughly 30 percent of a student’s tuition.

Even with a seven figure amount allotted, no full rides are passed out at The Master’s.

“Scholarships are the biggest part of our budget, but when you figure tuition here is up to around $32,000 it limits our ability to give the students what we would like to,” Berry said. “We have to be conservative with how we spend our money. We budget roughly $1,800 per player, which isn’t a lot when you think about it.”

The squeeze has been hard on high school sports too, where booster clubs are in charge of supplying the majority of the athletic funds due to a fluctuating budget that is supplied by the ASB.

“Our budget constantly changes,” said Saugus High athletic director Kevin Miner. “What we have to focus most of our energy on is travel expenses, but depending on how far the team goes in the playoffs can leave us with finding a way to come up with more funds. We have had to tell our coaches to limit travel in their pre-league schedule because we just don’t have the money we used to.”

One of the travel issues for high school programs is the need to charter buses to locations far from the Santa Clarita Valley.

“You don’t want your team to be on a yellow bus for three hours before they go play a game,” Miner said. “We have to find a way to cover the difference between the cost of a school bus and a charter bus. If the booster club can’t raise the money then we have to find a way to do it within our budget.”

To cut bus expenses several area schools have adopted a program called “one way drops.”

Buses take the students to games, but the players are responsible for finding their own ride home.

“It’s just one of the ways that we have had to get creative,” Miner said. “It’s not as easy to raise funds these days. Before times were so tight you could just have a car wash, but now things like that don’t really work like that because people have less money so they just wash their own cars.”

Travel is an issue at College of the Canyons also.

The Cougars have been forced to cut their yet-to-be-determined budget and limit the amount of road games teams play.

“It’s a tough time for a lot of parts of the education world,” Lyon said. “As a community college, we have always known that we can’t fundraise as much as a high school because that’s just how it is. More parents attend high school games, and they are more involved in helping their kids. It’s not going to change so we have to work with it.”

College of the Canyons employs nearly twice as many people as The Master’s because it participates in nearly twice as many sports.

Between 40 and 45 assistant coaches are on the staff at all times for the Cougars and there are currently 11 coaches running 16 sports, while The Master’s staff is generally between 20 and 30.

Both schools pay their coaches through their teaching salaries, although the money does come out of the athletic budget.

“How we do it is that our teachers are on a 10-month payment plan,” Lyon said. “If they coach a sport then they get an 11th month of pay at whatever rate they usually get, but since it is contingent on what they get paid as teachers we don’t really ever know what our budget is.”

Berry said The Master’s pays between $800,000 and $900,000 for its coaching staff, and the Mustangs also employ roughly 10 students, who are paid through work study.

“Of course, any college is a tuition-driven school,” Berry said. “Fundraising is a major part of us making up the difference between what we can and cannot do from the tuition money we get. We use the money we can raise to help cover everything from coach’s salaries to travel. We also utilize sponsorship, and we have been looking for more corporate sponsorship. We have basically been going door to door to try and find more businesses that are interested in helping the school out.”

The Hart district generally gives stipends ranging from $2,500 to $4,400 to its coaches.

“(The stipend) is pennies for the effort most of these coaches put in,” Miner said. “Still, that’s not why we all are involved in athletics. We want to watch the kids progress, and we love sports.”

The Master’s also rents out its athletic facilities in an attempt to raise money, as does College of the Canyons.

“You have to figure we have to spend money on a lot of different departments,” Lyon said. “We have to take care of game management, meals, lodging, officials, coaches, equipment supplies, insurance, entry fees and transportation. It adds up.”

One cutback has been in the travel budget for the Cougars.

Teams have been forced to limit the number of players who get to go on the road.

Also, all teams have been forced to reduce the number of games it played in the past by 10 percent.

“We’re cutting every way we can, while maintaining our status as a program,” Lyon said. “Still, we only have so much money. When you think about that we have a base meal budget for players when they travel that is three dollars for breakfast, five for lunch and seven for dinner it makes you realize that we are really trying to stretch a dollar.”

Food allowances are an issue at The Master’s too.

Players are given six dollars per meal, unless the team finds a way to raise enough funds to add to the total.

“It’s probably not even enough for a Big Mac meal and a Coke,” Berry joked. “We try to find ways to improve that, but sometimes funds have to go to other things.”

Even Gatorade has become scarce for area sports teams.

“Some teams get a deal with Gatorade where they get the powdered stuff and mix it with water,” Miner said. “It depends on the team. If there is some left over then we pass it along to another team that might not be able to afford it, but you never know how far it will go if something playing a week of baseball in 105 degree heat happens because, naturally, the team will go through more fluids.”

College of the Canyons has had to limit its Gatorade intake to game days only.

“If it isn’t a game day then break out the hoses because the players are just drinking water,” Lyon joked. “We really didn’t have a choice about that.”

The Master’s also uses only powdered Gatorade in an attempt to save money. Berry said the team might spend as little as $200 on sports drinks in a given school year.

On top of a shrinking number of electrolytes on the playing field, new uniforms have become increasingly rare.

“It’s standard that teams cycle through uniforms, handing them down from varsity to junior varsity to frosh,” Miner said. “If you don’t get any new uniforms for the varsity though there’s nothing to pass down.”

While Saugus, depending on the sport, generally gets new uniforms every two to four years, the fashion world at College of the Canyons can be tougher.

“The big thing for us was that we finally bought new football pants for the first time since 1998,” Lyon said. “We had been rolling around in the same two pairs for a decade, and it isn’t a sport that is especially easy to keep the uniform clean.”

The Master’s also uses its uniforms for multiple seasons as a way keep down a budget, which averages $1,200 to $1,400 per player in game-day costs.

Still, the economic climate could be worse for local programs.

Lyon sees plenty of reason why teams should be excited for the future.

“For us, I know our school president is dedicated to athletics,” Lyon said. “I feel good about where we are. Of, course we have had to cutback, but I think we are in good shape overall, and hopefully we will remain solid. That’s not something that every school in the state can say.”


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