Faculty senators criticize WSU Athletics’ budget

Program plans to break even by 2023, debt to be about $100 million

WSU+Athletics+Director+Pat+Chun+says+the+department+has+a+revenue+problem%2C+not+a+spending+issue.
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Faculty senators criticize WSU Athletics’ budget

WSU Athletics Director Pat Chun says the department has a revenue problem, not a spending issue.

WSU Athletics Director Pat Chun says the department has a revenue problem, not a spending issue.

BONNIE JAMES | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

WSU Athletics Director Pat Chun says the department has a revenue problem, not a spending issue.

BONNIE JAMES | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

BONNIE JAMES | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

WSU Athletics Director Pat Chun says the department has a revenue problem, not a spending issue.

LUKE HUDSON, Evergreen reporter

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WSU Athletics Director Pat Chun spoke about the WSU Athletic Department’s strategic plan for fiscal health recovery at a WSU Faculty Senate meeting Thursday.

Chun said WSU Athletics has a revenue problem, not a spending problem, and the department is the most efficient program in the Power Five conferences.

Matt Carroll, CAHNRS senator, said academic departments postponed hiring to reduce spending but that Athletics seems to be going in the opposite direction. He said the total debt for the department is higher now than when WSU President Kirk Schulz took over.

Chun said athletics reduced its spending deficit from $17 million to $7 million per year during that time. The department also cut positions and did not replace them.

“We’re not going to stop trying to compete at the highest level,” Chun said.

Von Walden, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture senator, said the problem is not deficit spending but the program’s total debt. Athletics plans to have a budget surplus by 2023 when it will be about $100 million in debt.

“I have a quick math test for you, what fraction is $100 million of $1 billion?” Walden said. “That’s one-tenth of a billion dollars in five years that the athletic program is supposed to incur at that point.”

Chun said decisions made by former Athletic Director Bill Moos hurt the fiscal health of the university. He said the department used to not fundraise or spend correctly but now it is bringing in more private donations.

The Cougar Athletic Fund brought in $1 million more than the previous year with $8.6 million, he said. The total fundraising for the department was $15.5 million.

Bryan Blair, WSU chief operating officer of athletics, said one of the department’s core values is integrity, which he said means people should not just want to win, but win the right way and not embarrass WSU.

“I will not accept any negative self-talk about Washington State,” Chun said. “Going forward, we can have very candid conversations behind closed doors but when we’re in public, we will only talk positively by Washington State because we owe it to our student-athletes.”

Walden said football Head Coach Mike Leach called WSU players “fat, dumb and happy and entitled,” during a postgame press conference after losing to the University of Utah.

Walden said he thought this does not represent the core values Chun and Blair discussed previously and asked Chun whether he thought a coach saying this represents how he wants student-athletes to be treated at WSU.

Chun said this is Leach’s definition of “complacency and lethargy,” and that he was not using the media as a tool to get a message to his team. He said every player knows they can bring problems to him through social media or text messages.

Donna Potts, College of Arts and Sciences senator, said the primary mission of professors is to cultivate student minds and wanted to know what was being done about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among football players.

There are safety measures put in place for football and as people learn more about CTE there will be precautions taken to ensure people’s safety, Chun said. The numbers actually show higher rates of concussions and head trauma among hockey, lacrosse and women’s soccer players, he said.

Chun said both the department and student-athletes are taking ownership of mental health with peer-to-peer programs.

The senate unanimously approved every action item and discussion item without conversation. The full list of approved items can be found on the Faculty Senate website.

At its next meeting on Oct. 31, the Senate will host WSU President Kirk Schulz and Interim Provost Bryan Slinker to discuss the search for a permanent replacement of former Provost Mitzi Montoya, who stepped down from the position Sept. 26.