“We are going to take it a step at a time, make some moves to cut expenses and try to grow our revenues,” said first-year GSU athletics director Lin Dawson.
Grambling is tightening its belt as part of a plan to balance a teetering Louisiana budget. State universities were asked to submit a proposed set of cuts as Baton Rouge anticipates a $2 billion shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning July 1.
Higher education and health care are not constitutionally protected, and thus have become the most vulnerable to funding reductions.
In all, Grambling has been asked to slash 16 percent of its total budget, nearly $5 million, as part of a goal to subtract $219 million from higher-ed support across Louisiana. Remarkably, almost a quarter of GSU’s proposed total reduction — $1,413,071 — is to come out of athletics.
Nearby ULM, also a member of the University of Louisiana system, is proposing cuts totalling just $350,000. ULS-affiliated Louisiana Tech only aims to trim sports funding by $258,262.
Dawson, on the job since Nov. 11, is determined to salvage what he can.
“We won’t delete any sports,” he said. “We don’t intend to cut any activity to where it impacts the student athletes’ health and welfare.”
His strategy to get to this $1.4 million goal includes: further consolidation of travel for sports teams, scheduling the NCAA- and league-minimum number of out-of-conference games, a delay on purchasing certain low-priority items like uniforms and leaving some open departmental positions unfilled.
“There are 20 or 30 ways to save money,” he said. “We have to take each one of them and look at them.”
Dawson added that the department would hire both an assistant athletic trainer and a sports information director, despite the dire financial outlook. Former SID Rod Moseley took over as interim after Ryan McGinty left recently.
Dawson estimated that Grambling saved $30,000 in expenses over the last fiscal year by having the men’s and women’s basketball teams travel in tandem to away games.
“That’s a far cry from the $1.4 million,” Dawson admitted, “but I believe, if we carefully monitor expenses, and look at how we do things, we have a pretty good chance. We will have to sacrifice, but we can still offer quality programs.”
Meanwhile, Dawson told me that he intends to ramp up the university’s efforts to raise funds — beginning with its earliest season-ticket campaign in memory, and a complete revamp of its Tiger Club booster arm. The department has also expanded an annual spring tour where football coach Rod Broadway and others talk up Grambling athletics with local alumni – traveling from Louisiana and Texas into Florida and Oklahoma.
Clearly, fan support is a critical element in the school’s plans to survive this downturn.
“What we didn’t do was raise ticket prices,” Dawson said, for Grambling football — its annual cash cow. “We want to be more proactive.”
That effort includes something he calls an “economic stimulus season-ticket offer.”
“Anyone who has lost their job over the course of the last year is eligible for our lowest ticket prices,” Dawson said. “If they have had some tough times over last year, we still want them to be able to see Grambling football.”