Moneyball: GC Athletics anchored by student fees
The cost of attendance for higher education has remained relatively constant over the past decade, and while this may be beneficial to students, it has its drawbacks for departments attempting to manage a budget with increasing costs. One such department is GC’s athletic department.
The athletic department must budget for travel costs, operating costs, scholarships, equipment and more for each of the 11 varsity sports.
GC athletics generates funding mainly through student fees. Each semester, students pay an athletic fee of $181. This student funding generates about 95 percent of the athletic department’s budget, according to Russ Williams, the senior director for Budget Planning and Administration.
The challenge with budgeting comes with a lack of increase in funding over the past few years. Georgia’s Board of Regents has strongly encouraged all universities in Georgia not to raise student fees.
Even though this helps prevent an increase in the cost of attendance for students, it prevents a further increase in revenue for the athletic departments.
Costs, including transportation and benefits, have increased over the years while the revenue remains at, leading to tight budgets.
However, the athletic department has done well to manage their budget, Williams said. One tool that aids in decreasing expenditures is the HOPE Scholarship. Due to GC’s academic admission requirements, the majority of students receive the HOPE Scholarship, including student athletes.
The HOPE Scholarship allows coaches to use money that would otherwise cover athlete’s tuition to cover other expenses. This lets the coaches make scholarship offers to prospects while also saving the department approximately $8,000 per athlete.
“It’s a built-in recruiting advantage,” said Wendell Staton, GC’s athletic director. “It’s state dollars, or HOPE dollars, that are going to help offset the costs, not just for our student athletes, but for all students.”
Another tool the university uses to cut back on costs is the international waivers. They allow international student athletes to come to GC at the cost of an in-state student rather than as an out-of-state student, as long as the athlete meets certain criteria.
This waiver draws more international students to GC, thus increasing the diversity and potential quality of GC athletics.
“I really like the fact that we’ve been able to have some international presence on our teams,” Staton said.
In addition, each coach of the 11 varsity sports also takes part in fundraising for their teams.
Steve Barsby, assistant athletic director and men’s and women’s tennis head coach, works hard to generate more revenue through funding. Barsby connects with alumni, parents, friends and others to encourage donations for the athletic department.
Additionally, this year, the men’s and women’s tennis teams created a letter campaign in hopes of bringing in more donations.
Barsby believes it is essential for current athletes to understand the importance of fundraising and what it means to the teams.
“When kids are playing here, I educate them thoroughly on the funding and the model and how it all works,” Barsby said. “When they leave here, they have a good understanding, and if [they] want to help out, that’s a great way to do that.”
Staton gives credit to the coaches for putting in the work to fundraise for the teams, and he also gives credit to the donors.
“Our alumni have been very gracious,” Staton said. “Our community has been very gracious.” In terms of determining the budget for each team, Staton believes in giving fair representation to all teams.
Staton tries to keep each team in a similar standing relative to other teams from Peach Belt Conference schools. The athletic department doesn’t want one team to be among the top schools in the PBC for their budget while another team is ranked among the lower schools.
“All 11 teams and all 200 student athletes are as [equally] important,” Staton said. “I want everybody to have the best experience they can.”