FORT WAYNE – Over the past year, the marketing catchphrase for the IPFW athletics teams has been Feel the Rumble, a widespread call to arms for IPFW students and fans to rally behind the 15 Mastodons men’s and women’s varsity teams.
But for the university that is experiencing budget difficulties, mostly stemming from declining undergraduate enrollment, Feel the Pinch could also represent the athletic department’s current situation.
According to the 2011-12 revenue and expenditures report provided to the NCAA, IPFW athletics had a razor-thin $9,034 revenue surplus.
The report showed that IPFW, mostly through $2 million-plus in student services fees and $2.8 million in direct institutional support, had revenue of $7,097,559. Expenditures, with $2.1 million going for student aid and nearly $1 million each for coaches’ salaries and team travel, totaled $7,088,525.
The numbers are deceiving, according to Tim Heffron, IPFW’s senior associate athletic director, who oversees the athletics budget.
The institution gave us $2.8 million to help run this department, out of the $7.1 (million) or whatever, Heffron said. That’s the number the institution needed to give us so that we were balanced. If we didn’t have that $2.8 million, we’d be down $2.8 million at the end of the year; we’d have a negative.
If you look at the direct institutional support line for the average of Division I, I’ll bet you it’s bigger than our entire budget. I guarantee it. I guarantee it.
The bottom line of the bottom line: We’re poor, athletic director Tommy Bell said.
Added Heffron: We’re just trying to survive.
Competitively in the 2012-13 school year, only the IPFW women’s tennis team (23-8, 7-0) was a regular-season champion in the Summit League. However, that team, as well as the second-place women’s volleyball (25-7, 12-4) and third-place women’s softball (34-16, 12-4) teams, won the league’s postseason tournaments, which enabled them to participate in NCAA tournaments.
The women’s teams’ showing strengthens IPFW’s case that it could be competitive in the Horizon League, a conference that Bell has publicly indicated he would like IPFW to eventually join.
Oakland, which has been IPFW’s Summit League travel partner, recently left the Summit League and was accepted by the Horizon League.
Basketball would need to be the sport where we would really have to ramp up and grow in, but I think we would be competitive there, Bell said.
The men’s basketball team was fifth in the Summit League last season, going 16-17 overall and 7-9 in the conference. The women were fourth (13-17, 8-8).
IPFW’s women’s basketball team received national recognition when junior forward Amanda Hyde, who was the Summit League Player of the Year, was named national women’s scholar-athlete of the year by the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association and the Summit League.
But it takes more than competitive teams to join the Horizon League, Bell said. It takes money.
Let’s say we have an opportunity to change conference affiliations, Bell said. We know, in our study, that we would have three external affairs people out there beating the bushes.
You need money. You have to up your budget. And the university can’t put any more money up, so we’d have to go out and do it.
Earlier this year, IPFW announced an $8.4 million budget deficit. The university laid off 18 workers and opted not to fill 24 vacant, non-teaching positions.
With the recent retirement of the university’s endowment officer, Bell said that position has not been filled.
We’re on hold right now, he said. I’m it right now. I’m doing all the development work right now.
Our university is going through a little blip in the road right now. Enrollment is going to go back up. Fees are coming our way. But we’re having discussions on how we’re going to fund athletics.