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AIB athletes try to get answers from Regents

BY CARLY MATTHEW | FEBRUARY 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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CEDAR FALLS — At the state Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday in Cedar Falls, almost one dozen AIB College of Business athletes attended to make a statement.

The gift of AIB to the University of Iowa was not announced until after the regents’ agenda had been determined, which meant the AIB athletes would not be discussed.

“We came here today to get some answers and clear up the unknown,” said Isaac Novak, an AIB sophomore baseball player.

Wearing red and blue, their school colors, the athletes came to the meeting hoping that, though they wouldn’t be able to speak on the issue, they might be able to send a message to the regents and the university officials in attendance.

“The issue may not be taken care of through the meeting, but we want to put a face to what’s going on,” said Max Sallinen, an AIB freshman baseball player. “A lot of people don’t understand how our lives turned upside down in the past week.”

The merger was announced during a press conference at AIB on Jan. 26. There, UI President Sally Mason and AIB President Nancy Williams said they felt the gift would benefit both institutions.

Sixty percent of the regents’ new funding model for institutions is based on the enrollment of in-state students. In the fall 2014 semester, Iowa residents made up about 47 percent of first-year student enrollment, according to its admissions webpage. The UI stands to lose as much as $50 million in funding unless the university enrolls more Iowa students.

AIB is a business college located in the southern part of Des Moines. According to the announcement of the merger, the process will take at least one year.

The AIB campus will then become the UI Des Moines campus. Through the gift, the Des Moines campus will most likely gain a number of academic programs.

Sallinen chose to attend AIB as a result of both academic and athletic scholarships but also chose the school knowing he would be able to play baseball. Sallinen toured 19 schools where he considered playing on teams before choosing AIB.

Though students who stay at AIB after the school merges with the UI will be able to keep their scholarships, Sallinen said, some of his friends at AIB are considering transferring to other schools where they can continue to participate in athletics programs.

After reading documents from an AIB Board of Trustees meeting obtained by WHO-TV Des Moines, athletes realized their programs would most likely be “phased out right away.”

The document states operational costs at AIB have been rising and the school is $1.4 million in debt.

Because the UI is seeking in-state students and funding at AIB is no longer sustainable, presidents of both universities would be affected positively, according to the document.

Sophomore baseball player Brennen Flores created an online petition in response called “Save AIB Athletics.” More than 1,100 signatures have been collected as of Wednesday night.

AIB currently has 14 varsity sports and, according to the document, has more than 300 athletes.

“We don’t know who will be making the final decision on athletics,” Flores said. “We’re just trying to reach out and grab their attention.”

AIB has had little response to the leaked document, but Jane Meisner, the school’s public-relations director, said the school is planning a release Friday.

She said the release will come first to students, faculty and staff then later to the media in a press release.

“All that’s been said so far is that the athletics program is out,” Meisner said.


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