FAMU implements next step in budget plan to sustain athletics

Special to the Outlook

While administrators have already put in place a hiring freeze, FAMU announced last week that it will eliminate men’s tennis and men’s cross country programs as a cost-saving measure. The change will take effect next June.

FAMU athletic department have been facing a financial deficit for more than a decade. Administrators say the current move is an effort to reduce a projected $2.4 million deficit.

Twelve student-athletes will be affected by the cuts. However, the student-athletes will remain on scholarships as long as they maintain academic standards.

John Eason

Meanwhile, the men’s track coach will continue working with other teams, including track and field. The men’s tennis coach has been working as a volunteer and that position will not be filled when the program is cut.

Eliminating both programs will result in cost savings that were presented to FAMU’s Board of Trustees (BOT) during its September meeting and the Board of Governors at its meeting in October. This past summer, FAMU’s BOT, as well as university leaders, started discussing a plan to develop a sustainable operating budget for athletics.

This is the second time in five years that FAMU is cutting sports for financial reason. In 2014, then athletic director Kellen Winslow fired two coaches and cut the men’s golf and tennis programs.

The first phase of that plan presented to the BOT was the announced hiring freeze that took effect last month. The freeze is expected to save $600,000 to $1 million and increase funding by the same amount from allowable sources.

“Moving forward, we are aggressively seeking to increase support from fans, friends and corporate partners and explore other avenues that will help produce a financially stable department,” said Athletics Director John Eason.

The freeze will affect primarily no-essential positions. Essential positions, such as the compliance director, mandated by the NCAA, will be filled.

Eason has been working with the University’s Athletics Assessment Team, and was expected to determine how to address the hiring freeze.

The Team consists of Richard Schweigert, interim CFO and vice president of Finance and Administration, Joyce Ingram, chief operations officer for Finance and Administration, Joe Maleszewski, auditor, Rica Calhoun, chief ethics officer, Genyne Boston, deputy athletics director, Erica Wilcox, director of athletics budget, Nichole Murry, university budget director, and Kentrell Kearney, interim associate athletics director for compliance.

“We want to give the best experience to our fans, students and student-athletes, and we are encouraged that we are taking steps that will benefit this department and University in the future.

“With the help of our Investing in Champions members and the recent Willenium Tour, we have already begun to find ways to help fund athletics,” Eason said. “We know that the future of FAMU athletics is bright and working together with our direct support organizations, alumni, and other supporters, we will continue enhancing this program.”