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Will It Pass?

Voting on athletics referendum to begin on Sunday

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 15:03

A referendum aiming to cover the budget deficit in athletics will be among the items on the ballot during spring elections, which begin March 17.

The referendum was written last semester by Matthew Jewell, Student Government Association President, and was approved for the ballot at the first SGA meeting of this semester.

The referendum reads, “The students of Nicholls State University hereby approve a self-assessment fee at the rate of three percent of the previous fall in-state tuition and fees to be paid by all students up to 12 hours each semester and session effective with the fall 2013 semester.”

Based on the previous fall in-state tuition and fees, this referendum will apply a $7 per credit hour fee up to 12 hours, totaling $84 per full- time student toward the athletics department.   This $84 will be added to the $64.12 referendum that was passed a year ago. It does not replace the other referendum, Jewell said.

The student assessed athletic fee of $42 is a fee that is only allowed to be used for women’s sports and safety, not for operations, Jewell said.

“The revenue from the referendum will provide for a more meaningful collegiate athletic experience by ensuring the stability of the athletics department and the well-being of the student-athletes,” Rob Benardi, athletics director, said.

This referendum will address the problems the athletics department is facing based on outside factors they cannot control.

“The referendum addresses the short-falls in the athletics department’s budget,” Jewell said. “What is happening is without the athletics department doing anything different and not spending any money; they are coming into the year with a deficit due to outside factors such as a 5 percent increase in housing.”

Last year a referendum was passed that included a portion for the athletics department. Unfortunately, there probably was not enough communication between SGA and the athletics department on the amount of money the athletics department needed, Jewell said.

“My referendum effectively covers the athletic department for the next five years at a minimum, so there will not be another referendum next semester for the athletics department,” Jewell said.

The term “five years” refers to the hopes Jewell has that this referendum will help the athletics department financially. It does not refer to the length of time students will have to pay the fee. This student assessed fee will continue on indefinitely, until a later student body decides that the athletics department no longer needs the revenue.

Another reason Jewell decided to write and propose the referendum is because if this financial issue is not addressed, there could be consequences of losing the athletics program at the University, he said.

This would affect the 310 athletes here at the University. It would also affect students that participate in the athletic events. This includes trainers, equipment managers, band members, cheerleaders, Colonelettes, student film crew members and student media on campus.  

In preparing for the referendum, Jewell did research on other colleges that at one point lost their athletic department and the effect it had on the University.

“I looked at Southeastern and Lamar, both of them lost their football teams and in turn lost a substantial number of students. Southeastern lost about 1,200 students within two years of the program going away. This is a big deal for Nicholls because the University cannot afford to lose 300 students let alone 1,200 students.”

In the state of Louisiana, the Board of Regents outlines how much a University can contribute to the athletics department.

The University’s max contribution to the athletics department is 3.4 million dollars; currently the athletics department only receives 2.6 million from the University. Other schools in the University of Louisiana system including Southeastern, McNeese, and Northwestern State are all fully funded by their Universities, whereas Nicholls State is not fully funded.

“The reason the University cannot fully fund the athletics department is because they want to keep as much money in the academic program as possible,” Jewell said. “This referendum essentially ensures that the University is not going to have to take away from academics to help cover the athletics department.”  

One of the first things Jewell wanted the athletics department to do was show him how they were going to raise money for the department.

“They showed me that they are raising more money than ever before and potentially going to a third party vendor to help increase ticket sales,” Jewell said.

Another way the athletics department raises money is through game guarantees, an agreement that an opposing team will pay the University some amount of money to play them.

“The University currently has guarantees of $1.2 million, after expenses for game travel, the University in the end does not receive the full $1.2 million,” Jewell said.

Jewell understands the point of raising money for the department, but does not understand why it has to be at the expense of the athletes.

“I commend our athletic department for going out and doing this to raise money, because this is one of the only ways they can, but I do not think it’s fair at the same time that our school has to go across the nation to get their asses kicked, just so we can raise money,” Jewell said. “Our first game is against the Oregon Ducks, the number three team in nation.  I do not think it is fair for our athletes to go and lose the first game of the season and potentially get hurt because they need money to operate.”

Jewell said the first question he always receives is what does the money go to.

“If you take the money the University contributes, $2.6 million, to the athletics department, the department then turns around and gives $1.9 million back to the University for scholarships. That is where the deficit is coming from,” Jewell said.

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