Athletic department budget fragile like ‘skin and bones’

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Dixie State University’s athletic department, while it may seem glitzy and glamorous on the outside, is struggling to support student athletes financially.

Some DSU athletic teams are supported by the department’s budget, while other teams aren’t. The department works with about $1.4 million each year, with most of the budget going toward travel expenses and scholarships. 

There is not one student athlete at DSU who receives a full-ride scholarship. Some athletes receive tuition waivers, which don’t equal cash, but are simply waivers of the amount of tuition owed to the university. 

Athletic Director Jason Boothe said there isn’t a waiver for every single athlete. 

“Do we give more to the more visible sports? Absolutely,” he said. “Football, basketball, baseball and softball get more waiver proportionally than some of the other lower teams like cross country, tennis and golf. But they still do pretty well.”

The smaller teams simply don’t have the recruiting ability to go out and get a handful of extremely talented players and give each of them tuition waivers, Boothe said. Because of the teams’ sizes and popularity, those sports just aren’t there yet.

However, members of the athletic department are trying to build up programs one-by-one.

“We try to help out every team as much (as) we can, [and] they always get something,” he said. 

Women’s tennis coach Eric Pelton said getting less money is difficult, but also even the more visible sports aren’t funded well compared to other schools in the state.

“We kind of end up a little bit farther down, but it’s not like we’re the only ones being left out,” Pelton said.

He said the biggest struggle is not having enough scholarships for his players. 

“When we’re going against teams that are fully funded, it’s definitely a lot harder,” Pelton said. 

Boothe said because DSU is a Division II institution in southern Utah, teams often have to travel far and spend overnight trips to play games, which can get expensive quickly.

“We struggle financially just because of our travel,” Boothe said. “We’re very lean. It’s skin and bones. Perception wise, [students] might think, ‘Oh, athletics has all this money,’ but we don’t.”

Right now, each student pays $65 to athletics each semester in his or her fees. Boothe said in a perfect world, a good portion of funding from student fees would be around $100 per student for the semester. He said he doesn’t want to push it because it’s more money out of the students’ pockets when they probably don’t have a lot of money to begin with.

“We’re very sensitive to that,” Boothe said. “We’re very appreciative of what we do get.”

Although students don’t have to turn their pockets inside out for the athletics department, Boothe said if the department had more money, student athletes would be able to travel easier and there could also be more giveaways or food at sporting events.

Teams like the DSU cheerleaders or the dance team aren’t rolling in the dough, either. Boothe said those teams are a part of the budget, but no scholarships outside of presidency positions are awarded to the team members.

Boothe said if those teams wanted to travel with the basketball team to Hawaii, which they have done in the past, the students would have to pay for it themselves.

“We can’t justify paying for that,” he said. “Tennis, for example, we can’t get them enough scholarships for the players … Oh, but we’re going to budget the dance team to send them to Hawaii and dance with the cheer team? … We can’t justify that.”

He said the dance and cheer team are an essential part of athletics, but he would argue the need for a student athlete to get a scholarship is more important.

“No disrespect to cheer and dance, (but) that’s a convenience, not a necessity,” Boothe said.

Boothe said DSU athletics is extremely efficient with the little funding it has.

“Considering what we do financially, we are very good athletically,” he said.