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Iowa eschews sports fees

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | JUNE 29, 2009 7:21 AM

Universities across the country are implementing, and in some cases raising, athletics fees for their students.

While athletics departments nationwide have been forced into taking such measures, making students pay fees is something that won’t be seen at Iowa anytime soon.

Instead, Hawkeye Athletics Director Gary Barta has embraced the opportunity his department has had to generate all of the revenue necessary to sustain its programs without charging athletics fees.

UI Student Committee on Athletics member Tim McLaughlin said that from a student perspective, implementing such a fee would lower the likelihood of people attending games.

“The higher the cost, the lower the possibility of people supporting,” said McLaughlin, who is also a former DI reporter.

The issue may not affect a school such as Iowa, but at the University of New Orleans, a school struggling to maintain its entire athletics department, it is a much different story.

New Orleans students recently voted against athletics fees at their school being raised from $100 to $196 per semester. Eric Gallatin, the president of the school’s student government, is adamant about exploring alternatives.

“I’m 100 percent for getting another referendum, but slapping the cost in students’ faces is not the best idea,” he said. “I’m worried that many students can’t afford it.”

New Orleans Athletics Director Jim Miller believes that having a viable department gives the school more recognition, as well as making students’ degrees more valuable.

“Well obviously, I’m disappointed with the outcome of the vote,” he said. “Some people say the athletics department isn’t as important as other things.”

The New Orleans athletics department is supported by athletics fees, self-generated revenue, and the state of Louisiana. Recently, the state has told the university that it is going to cut all financial support, and the school is going to have to generate revenue on its own.

“We have not asked to raise the student athletics fees since the year 2000; a lot has happened since then,” Miller said. “Previous to Hurricane Katrina, we had an enrollment of around 17,500; now, we’re around 11,000. You do the math.”

At Utah State, students recently voted in record numbers to support a $130 increase per year to athletics fees, skyrocketing from $113 to $243. Utah State Athletics Director Scott Barnes, who was pleased with the outcome, feels that Utah State now has a great chance to stabilize, grow, and close the gap with other institutions in the Western Athletic Conference.

“We want to give our student athletes and coaches an opportunity to be successful in achieving our mission of providing a quality educational experience on the fields of competition, in the classroom, and in being successful when they leave Utah State,” Barnes said. “The passage of a student fee is one significant step in the right direction.”

With schools such as New Orleans and Utah State debating the pros and cons of raising athletics fees, Barta, who has been Iowa’s athletics director since 2006, believes not having to deal with the fees has been advantageous.

“We’re fortunate to have the students’ support year in and year out,” he wrote in an e-mail. “At many schools across the country, the athletics department charges a fee for all students to fund athletics. We don’t do that at Iowa. We offer a very discounted ticket to those who come out to the games, and those who choose not to attend don’t have to pay anything toward our athletics program.”


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