MSUM lacks athletic fundsWhile Minnesota State Moorhead has slightly increased scholarships in its most visible sports over the last seven years, the athletic department is still not keeping pace with the rest of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Last year, the Dragons had the least athletically related student aid in the conference with $553,178, according to the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Web site.
By: By Eric Peterson, The Forum, The Jamestown Sun
While Minnesota State Moorhead has slightly increased scholarships in its most visible sports over the last seven years, the athletic department is still not keeping pace with the rest of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Last year, the Dragons had the least athletically related student aid in the conference with $553,178, according to the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Web site.
Former men’s basketball coach Stu Engen was critical of the school’s lack of athletic funding 11 days after his contract was not renewed.
“It is my belief that it is disingenuous to pretend we are on a new path every time we make a coaching change, and it only deflects from the real issues of lack of administrative support when it comes to staffing and scholarships,” Engen wrote in an e-mail he sent to The Forum.
Dragons athletic director Doug Peters – who said the decision to not bring back Engen was not based on wins and losses – admits the athletic department is lagging when it comes to athletic funding.
Peters said in the 1990s, when most of the schools in the region moved from NAIA to NCAA Division II, other schools put more focus on the transition.
“Where MSUM has just been behind on that and is trying to play catch-up,” Peters said. “In many ways, we are starting from scratch when it comes to athletic fundraising.”
The Dragons offer 35.83 scholarships, 18.8 for male sports, 16.99 for female sports and a fraction of a scholarship dedicated to athletic training.
“We’ve got to do something about that,” MSUM President Edna Szymanski said. “The problem is at the same time I can’t really divert state money over there because … I’ve been closing this huge budget gap.”
MSUM cut $9 million from its university budget last year and is planning for additional cuts.
Currently, NSIC schools can offer a maximum of 90 athletic scholarships with a limit of 45 for male sports and 45 for female sports.
Next year, that will change. A school’s max scholarships will be two-thirds of the overall maximum that school can offer based on D-II limits in all the sports each school sponsors.
For example, an NSIC school that offers more overall sports will likely have a higher scholarship threshold. A school can offer more than two-thirds of the maximum in one sport if they balance that out by offering less than two-thirds in another sport.
“I believe that athletics is important to the university, and to that end, scholarships is important in athletics because students are looking for scholarships,” Syzmanski said.
Peters said a first step is to increase the number of fundraisers. Athletics has two people for that purpose with one primarily devoted to athletics. nother focus is re-connecting with the school’s alumni and people that have been involved with Dragon athletics.
Peters said the school’s annual athletic fundraising has consistently totaled around $200,000.
In 2002-03, MSUM offered 6.8 scholarships in football, 5.3 in women’s basketball and 4.3 in men’s basketball.
This year, the athletic department offered 8.95 in football, 7.36 in women’s basketball and 6.69 in men’s basketball. The D-II maximum in men’s and women’s basketball is 10 and the league average is around 7 scholarships, Peters said.
In football, the NSIC maximum is currently 24 scholarships and the league average is around 18, according to Peters.
Next season the NSIC football limit is increasing to 25 scholarships. The league will increase the football limit to 28 by 2013.
That lack of funding has shown in football.
The Dragons football team has had only one winning season since 2000 and has a 4-18 record over the past two seasons.
“My mindset from the day I got hired was remembering that it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” Peters said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the sprint stuff, especially when you are not winning like in football.”
The Dragons have had more success in the sports that are more funded.
For example, the women’s basketball team has averaged 19 wins per season over the past seven seasons. While she has had consistent success, MSUM women’s basketball coach Karla Nelson said not having full funding makes it tough to compete at the highest level.
“We have a lot of things to sell, but when you have schools that offer a little more money with the economy the way it is, they are going to look hard at that,” Nelson said.
Competition in the NSIC has increased in the past two seasons with former North Central Conference schools St. Cloud State, Minnesota State Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth and Augustana joining the league in 2008-09.
“It’s raised the bar,” said Northern State athletic director Bob Olson. “It’s one of those things if you’re not going forward, you are going backward.”
Northern State ranked No. 13 in the league in athletically related student aid last year with $639,800, but the Wolves offer roughly 23 scholarships in football. Northern State also offers 10 scholarships in both women’s and men’s basketball.
“We’ve really tried to get our two basketballs, football and even volleyball up scholarship-wise a little higher than the rest of our sports,” Olson said. “That doesn’t mean those other sports aren’t as important by any means. We’re trying to gradually get everybody up there over a period of time.”
While Peters recognizes scholarship levels are important, he said that isn’t his lone focus as he tries to build a stronger athletic department.
“It’s trying to figure out all the pieces that we can put together to attract the best players that we can,” Peters said. “Part of it is facilities, part of it is staffing and part of it is the scholarship side of things.”
Olson thinks staffing and scholarships are the two most important ingredients for success.
“You can overcome some facility things if you have the right people and if you have the right amount of scholarships to award,” Olson said. “In our priority of things, that’s how we would do it.”
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