Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 2022

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UNLV athletics not alone in facing financial difficulties

Fundraising efforts become more important during tough economic times

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Mike Hamrick

In between shots Wednesday afternoon at Spanish Trail Golf and Country Club, UNLV athletic director Mike Hamrick paused to address the fiscal state of his department.

“We need a lot of these,” Hamrick said of the fund-raising event that he expects to raise almost $50,000 for Rebels athletics.

In state budget cuts that were announced last week, UNLV sports will receive $1.8 million less than had been earmarked for them in the combined fiscal years of 2008-09 and 2009-10.

About a quarter of its current budget of $26 million comes from the state.

The economic downturn and slicing of bottom lines was a major conversation topic last week at Mountain West Conference administrative meetings in Phoenix.

“We’re not the Lone Ranger,” Hamrick said. “We’re just in a difficult time. We’ll get through it. It’s just a matter of sharpening your knife, making the cuts and doing the things that won’t hurt our competitiveness.”

Not cutting personnel, scholarships or a program or two were priorities, Hamrick said. He talked about Washington dropping men’s and women’s swimming and Stanford slicing 21 jobs from its athletic department.

Maine dropped its men’s soccer and women’s volleyball programs. Hawaii, Boise State and UNLV are some of the many athletic departments that will not fill vacant administrative positions.

Utah will have a budget shortfall of about $250,000 when this fiscal year ends June 30, and Utes athletic director Chris Hill believes next year could be worse.

“It’s what keeps me awake at night,” Hill told the Deseret News.

Hamrick takes some solace in having mechanisms in place that helped soften last week’s blow from the Legislature.

Almost six months ago, he assembled a Budget Task Force, comprised of a diverse group of 18 administrators, coaches, equipment-room personnel and trainers, that met regularly to tackle the budget concerns.

“It was a long process,” Hamrick said. “The bottom line was, we wanted to do everything we could to keep from becoming less competitive. To say it was doom and gloom? No.

“We all put our heads together and helped each other. Everyone shared ideas of what they could do or think about doing. Everyone pretty much had the same ideas, and that was very helpful.”

Rebel Athletic Fund golf tournaments have raised about $500,000 in Hamrick’s six years.

A year ago, Hamrick struck a 10-year deal with International Sports Properties, Inc., which specializes in sports marketing and promotions, that nets UNLV $3.2 million annually.

Also last year, Hamrick signed Nike to be the sole provider of apparel and equipment for UNLV teams. That five-year exclusive arrangement also brings in $3.5 million to the department.

Three weeks ago, the UNLV Student Senate unanimously agreed to increase student fees, for the first time since 1985, to boost its athletic department contribution by $500,000, to $2.4 million, for 2009-10.

That’s just more than half of the MWC average.

“That helps,” Hamrick said. “We’re grateful to our students. It’s a tough time for everybody, but the Student Senators felt good about the athletic program and has made a deep impact.”

In addition, the football team will not book charter flights to all of its games, which Hamrick said will save at least $100,000.

“Chartering flights for football team has been a way of life forever in college football,” Hamrick said. “But we’ll take a couple of commercial flights, and that will save us some money.”

This week, he scheduled a football game at West Virginia, always a tough foe, for 2010 to make another $750,000.

“To go to the football coach (Mike Sanford) and make them go on the road for a 13th game, when he’s already playing Wisconsin, Hawaii, Utah, BYU and TCU … ” Hamrick said.

“(Sanford) said, ‘Hey, Mike, if that’s what we need to do for the program, we’ll do it.’ I wasn’t going to schedule a 13th game unless (Sanford) felt OK with it. And he did.”

Hamrick said he had never scheduled a 13th game in his career as an athletic director, at UNLV and East Carolina. The tough economic times, however, dictated making the move.

“I felt like we had to do that,” he said. “This whole process has brought us closer as an athletic department. Everybody has been amazing. Our coaches have cooperated and everyone has pinched in.

“Some people might say we’re just cutting the fat, but we’re not. I don’t think anybody in this department will tell you we had any fat. We’re just tightening things up and watching every penny we spend.”

He zipped in his cart to return to the golf course and about 80 donors.

“This,” Hamrick said of the addition to UNLV’s athletic coffers, “will be a good day for us.”

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