Faltering economy affecting local college athletic departments
Posted July 14, 2009
Updated July 15, 2009
Raleigh, N.C. — College athletics means big business and like every other big business, college sports are not immune to a down economy.
Even the best fund raisers, like N.C. State’s Bobby Purcell, are feeling the pinch of a bad economy.
“It’s a tougher environment to raise money for capital projects,” said Purcell, executive director of the Wolfpack Club.
N.C. State is in a better position than most schools, since most of the Wolfpack’s major projects –like the extensive renovations to Carter-Finley Stadium – have been completed.
“We were very fortunate,” Purcell said. “Our timing was great in that we completed most of our stadium projects before the economy went south.”
In Chapel Hill, the issue is less about fundraising, and more about operations budgets. With 28 varsity sports, North Carolina has one of the largest athletic departments in the NCAA. Those 28 sports are safe from being cut, but their support structure is being changed
“We are looking to cut in other ways,” said Dick Baddour, director of athletics at the University of North Carolina. “We’re looking hard at travel, how we do it, when we do it and where we go. We’re in a hiring freeze, and we’re looking hard at overtime.”
Baddour said the first phase of renovations to Kenan Stadium has gone ahead as planned, but the second phase is currently being delayed as a result of the down economy.
Duke remains full-steam ahead with ongoing renovations to Wallace Wade Stadium, which include new concessions and bathrooms on both sides.
“Like every school, the economic downturn has affected Duke Athletics,” said Jon Jackson, assistant director of athletics/communications at Duke. “We are finding ways to be more cost effective, without sacrificing service to our student-athletes and coaches.”
East Carolina has seen a decline in fundraising and season ticket sales of between 5-10%. But despite those reductions, ECU is moving ahead with the addition of 7,000 seats to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium’s east end zone.
“We believe the construction of these additional seats will create employment opportunities throughout eastern North Carolina in the short term and, in the longer term, add considerably to the current $90 million annual economic impact that ECU Athletics has on the surrounding area,” said Terry Holland, athletic director and special assistant to the chancellor at East Carolina University. “In other words, a stimulus package that is not shouldered by the taxpayers except those who wish to support ECU football and/or enjoy one of the best college game day atmosphere anywhere.”