Editor’s Note – This is part one of a two-part series dealing with athletic scholarships at Fort Hays State University. Part one looks at how scholarships are funded and awarded at FHSU. Part two will look at how FHSU’s scholarship funding compares to other institutions in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
To Athletic Director Curtis Hammeke, scholarships are crucial in developing successful collegiate athletics. But following the economic meltdown, Fort Hays State University is going to have to battle to stay competitive in recruiting, he said.
“Scholarships are very important in the recruiting process,” Hammeke said. “There are four things that are critical for recruiting: the coach, the facilities, the areas of study available at FHSU and certainly the scholarship dollars to help the cost of education.”
Last year, FHSU awarded 12.4 fewer scholarships than the NCAA and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association allotted FHSU, which was partly due to a lack of funding. The Tigers awarded 106.05 scholarships out of 118.45 total allotted scholarships.
Hammeke said the lack of funding is a growing concern with the economic crisis the state is facing, but he has an idea of how to ride out the storm.
“We are looking at budget cuts like the whole university is,” Hammeke said. “But we are not taking that approach completely. We are making some cuts, but we are also trying to offset the reductions by generating more revenue.”
The NCAA puts a cap on the maximum number of scholarships a school can offer in each sport. The equivalency for one scholarship is considered the full cost for room and board, books and tuition at FHSU. This equates to approximately $11,000 for a Kansas resident and $18,000 for someone who is a non-resident.
The number of scholarships varies, depending on the number of people on the roster and whether the sport is a revenue maker.
The NCAA regards football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball as revenue-making sports, or first-tier sports. These sports receive more scholarships proportionally because of their moneymaking potential. The first-tier sports utilize these scholarships to be competitive and to bring in more fans.
“(Funding the first-tier sports) isn’t just a Fort Hays priority; it is an NCAA priority,” Hammeke said. “… Basketball or volleyball might have 14 or 15 players on a team. Basketball gets 10 scholarships as opposed to real minor sports such as baseball, which has 30 on a roster, and they have nine scholarships.”
In addition to the NCAA cap, the MIAA imposes a cap of its own. The maximum cap on the first-tier sports and softball remains the same as the NCAA’s, but all the secondary sports are only allowed to use 75 percent of the total scholarships allotted by the NCAA.
Hammeke said the MIAA likely established these limits as a cost savings effort.
However, FHSU is responsible for gathering the scholarship money, and it does this in several ways – endowment funds, private donations, special events, marketing, concessions, ticket sales, housing waivers and student fees.
FHSU offers close to the maximum amount of NCAA allotted scholarships in its first-tier, and second-tier sports, such as baseball and men’s and women’s track and field/cross country, are offered close to the maximum amount of MIAA allotted scholarships. Refer to the chart on the right to see the totals. However, third-tier sports, such as men’s golf and women’s tennis, receive even less proportionally – a little over half of the maximum allowed.
Wrestling and women’s golf competes in the Rocky Mountain Athletics Conference, so those sports aren’t bound by the 75 percent restriction, and they can adhere to the NCAA maximum allotment.
FHSU already doesn’t meet the cap in most sports, and Hammeke said the Tigers might have even worse troubles with the loss of endowment scholarships and possible private donors in the coming year. The endowed scholarships consists of money that is invested in the economy, and the interest generated is the money that goes to the scholarships.
“We haven’t been fully funding our second- and third-tier sports at this point,” Hammeke said. “We are continuing our efforts to elevate our scholarships on those levels. Obviously, that is challenging right now.”
Like endowed academic scholarships, endowed athletic scholarships will take a significant hit with the drop in interest rates due to the worsening economy. In order to counteract this, Hammeke said the athletic department must find alternative ways of creating revenue.
Traditionally, one way the athletic department attempts to find this money is outside donors and fundraisers, but outside donors and fundraisers may not be a viable option with the economic recession.
Another option is to bring in more athletes to campus, which allows for more housing scholarships from the residence halls.
The athletic department has a partnership with the residence halls, which yields housing waivers in the form of scholarships. The amount of housing reductions available coincides with the number of athletes brought to campus.
These waivers can be applied to students’ housing and, in turn, these waivers help the athletic department come closer to maxing out the number of scholarships per sport.
“We are trying to help the university by increasing enrollment and help ourselves by generating more scholarship dollars that way,” Hammeke said.
The final option is student fees. A proposal was made to the Student Government Association last fall to increase the athletic fees per credit hour by $1 for the first year and an additional $1 increase over the next year. It was sent to a student referendum and was voted down on Dec. 11 (601-580). The athletic fee increase would have brought in an estimated $220,000 following the second year, according to student body vice president Cole Engel. Hammeke said he was disappointed when he discovered the results of the vote.
“That was over $200,000 that was targeted at scholarships, travel and equipment fees for second- and third-tier sports,” Hammeke said. “It was a close vote, but it was unfortunate it didn’t go through because that would have brought these sports closer to more realistic operating budgets prior to addressing the decline at the state level.”
Former health senator Jeff Zerfas was one of the supporters of the bill who worked to fill the petition for the student referendum.
“I thought if Fort Hays wants to be serious about their sports, then I think we should invest time and money in it,” Zerfas said. “I thought if we could invest a little more money, we could see a few more Ws on the field.”
However, student body president Tyler Hughes said people can’t blame the students for protecting their pocketbooks.
“I think the student vote and especially the student turnout speaks for itself,” Hughes said. “I think what really drove the ‘no’ votes is the fact tuition goes up every year. The price of college and living is going up, and it is always going to be that way.
“This was a chance for students to have a say and stop the increase in tuition.”
As a result, the athletic department is left to fill the void.
“We sell advertising, we sell tickets and we do everything we can to generate revenue,” Hammeke said. “It is a hard time for that, but you have to try and keep working at it. That is what we intend to do.”