@UWMSA comes through for the @MKEPanthers

Over the years, the UWM Student Association hasn’t been much more than a punchline.  Riddled with scandal for much of the past decade, the SA hasn’t been much more than a joke, especially concerning athletics.  Mired in debt since the move to the US Cellular Arena in men’s basketball, the athletics program has been repeatedly denied increases in student segregated fees, or allocated significantly less than the department has asked.  It has come to the point where annual segregated fees meetings are a time for the athletics department to go in front of the SA, make an impassioned plea for more money, and ultimately come away with nothing.

Until Sunday night.

Milwaukee Athletics won a big commitment from the UWM Student Association (page 19) when the SA approved a move by the Segregated Fees Committee  to increase the allocation to athletics from $77.75 this year to $119 by the 2014-15 school year.

“I think we presented a solid plan to fix our debt and the Student Association responded in a big way.  We’re pleased with the outcome,” said Rick Costello, athletic director of Milwaukee Athletics.

The increase is the largest in recent memory for the SA to athletics.  It is being allocated under the guideline that athletics use this extra money to pay down their debt, although the money does not need to go directly towards paying down the debt.

The increase is spread out over the next three years.  Athletics will receive an increase from $77.75 to $106.55 per semester in the 2012-13 school year, a large increase of $28.80, a 37% bump in the first year of the new budget.

In 2013-14, that jumps another $3.45 to an even $110 fee.  In the final year of the current group, that fee jumps again from $110 to $119, which brings the overall tally to $82.50  over a three year span.  The athletics program gets much needed money.

“What we have is a structural deficit, and this increase will eliminate our budget deficit,” Costello said.

Right now, full-time students pay $77.75 per semester into the athletics program as part of the SFC’s allocation.  To give readers an idea of how much money that is, I put together a table that illustrates just how much money the athletic department is going to see in the coming years.

I have a couple notes on the table.  The percentage increase is from the year before, not an increase from year one.  Also, the “Department Revenue” section is based on that fee being applied to the student body number for the fall 2011 semester. The UWMSA told me that while the overall student body is 29,768, only full-time students pay the segregated fee per semester and the number of full-time students hasn’t dipped under 24,000 for several years.  So, the general number we’re going to use is 48,000, or twice that amount (for each semester).

Year Fee Increase Percentage increase Department revenue
2011-12 $77.75 $3,732,000
2012-13 $106.55 $28.80 3.1% $5,114,400
2013-14 $110 $3.45 3.1% $5,280,000
2014-15 $119 $9 8.1% $5,712,000

What does this all add up to?  Well, from the increase alone, by spring 2015 the Milwaukee Athletics department will bring in an added $4,910,400 over the next three years beginning next September.

That is a huge victory any way you look at it.  The Panthers will be able to pay down their debt much, much quicker, and once that debt has been paid down, the Panthers will have enough money to run several sports or add much needed staff.  The Panthers could even use that money to increase marketing money.

There are a couple stipulations that were added onto the UWMSA’s allocation increase for Milwaukee Athletics. They are:

– Milwaukee Athletics’ budget will be approved by a committee that will include three SA-appointed members.  That means the AD can’t appoint Jose Matamoros and Keerin Pinch to approve the budget.  With Rick Costello and Charlie Gross running the show, I have no worries that they’ll come up with a budget that the students will approve.

– Beginning in fiscal year 2014, the athletics department must make an annual payment of $430,000 directly to the debt.  This is to ensure that the department uses this increase to make the debt go away forever.  This increase essentially wipes out the men’s basketball program’s awful lease with the Wisconsin Center District.  If the program can fix that problem, you’re talking about a lot more money on top of this to be used for real, athletics purposes. The lease is up at the end of the season and Costello said he’ll be entering negotiations with WCD soon.

– The UWMSA will “Continue to regard the Athletics Department as a critical service of UWM.” This doesn’t say much in itself, but the fact is that the Student Association has not seen the athletics program as an integral part of the institution.  One of the biggest problems of Panther Athletics is that the rest of the university has treated it like an intramural program.  This simple sentence ensures that the SA takes athletics seriously, as a big part of what the university does.

– “Be a supportive voice for the Athletics Department of UWM and all teams therein.”  This is directly quoted from the text, and applies to the garbage “press releases” that the UWMSA has put out in recent years about athletics, slamming the department for no real reason than to incite negativity towards the program. It’s all about how we can argue and discuss behind closed doors, but like much of the country, we need to present a united face to the public.

The Panthers may have lost at UNI this weekend, but Sunday night provided a much, much bigger victory.

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