Amid Financial Crisis, UW President Speaks to Importance of Athletics
After declaring a financial crisis at the University of Wyoming during Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, UW President Laurie Nichols shared her perspective on the importance of athletics at the state’s only public, four-year university.
Members of the public and university community have voiced criticism of the administration, arguing that the UW Department of Athletics is not critical to higher education and should bear the brunt of budget cuts.
The budget Trustees approved Wednesday includes roughly $19 million in cuts and $6 million in internal, one-time funding reallocations in the next fiscal year.
This year’s legislative budget session left the UW Athletics Department with a 20 percent cut in its state appropriation, down to $4 million in each of the next two years from the $5 million the department received last year and the university requested again in August.
“They have shared in this just like the rest of the campus has,” says Nichols. “And I think that’s really important to say because sometimes people think they’re separate and they don’t.”
Nichols says the department has been a “full player” as the university takes steps to slash budgets, including the “penny plan” — a 1.5 percent cut over the upcoming biennium — as well as the elimination of 70 vacant positions throughout campus.
“We didn’t call out individual programs but out of the seventy positions, four or five of them are athletics,” says Nichols. “And they’re gone.”
Nichols adds that athletics plays a very important role as the “front porch” or “front door” of any university, due in large part to its physical presence. Nichols says keeping fans and alumni close to the university through athletics is important in allowing the university to seek donations from supporters of UW athletics.
“We have citizens in the state and outside the state that really love Cowboy and Cowgirl sports,” Nichols says. “We’re going to come back and ask them to support us.”
As UW positions itself to reduce its dependence on state funds, Nichols says getting donors to step up to the plate will play a major role in the university’s approach to fundraising.
“One way you bring donors in the door is that you start working with your alums and those that are really great fans of athletics,” says Nichols. “It really is kind of the front door to fundraising as well as the front door to the university.”
“There’s a strategy behind all of this,” Nichols adds.