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Winstom-Salem State Requests Fee Raise to Play in Division I
Winston-Salem State University’s move to Division I athletics could be hitting the wall.
Chancellor Donald Reaves of WSSU asked the UNC board of governors to approve an increase in student-athletics fees at a meeting in January, said Joni Worthington, a vice president of communications for the UNC system.
Worthington also said that Erskine Bowles, the UNC president, sent a letter to board members recommending against the increase.
The 32-member board will vote on Reaves’ request and others from other UNC system schools Feb. 13, but without the additional fees, WSSU might not be able to afford to stay on course.
Winston-Salem State – formerly a Division II program that played in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association – is in the third year of a five-year transition period to Division I and is scheduled to join the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2011. The NCAA requires Division I programs to offer more sports and more scholarships than Division II programs.
“Looking at the various options of all our universities, it remains to be seen what each campus will need,” Worthington said last week. “It’s the reality of the economy, but it will come down to the board of governors’ vote if Winston-Salem State will be able to increase student fees.”
WSSU’s athletics fees for the current academic year are $579 per full-time student. Only one other school in the UNC system with an athletics program has a higher fee – UNC Asheville, at $590 a student. Reaves requested a 31.3 percent increase for next year, to $760.
If the board of governors does not grant his request, Reaves could keep WSSU in Division II, provided the school’s board of trustees approves. Although in transition between divisions and playing as an independent in all sports, WSSU technically is still classified as a Division II program by the NCAA.
Nigel Alston, the chairman of WSSU’s board of trustees, said that Bowles’ request to limit tuition and fee increases most likely will force adjustments at all the UNC system schools.
“There is still another meeting with the board of governors to discuss changes to the requests made by the schools before the vote on Feb. 13,” Alston said.
Reaves told faculty and staff members who attended an open session at WSSU on Jan. 6 that he would request an increase in student fees to help offset the deficit in athletics, according to a faculty member who attended the meeting.
The faculty member also said Reaves said that without increased student fees, the school “would have to reconsider the move to Division I.”
In his letter to the board of governors about tuition and fee increases for 2009-10, Bowles wrote: “Most North Carolina families cannot afford a 6.5 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and fees.”
Worthington said in an e-mail that WSSU’s push to increase student fees was at the forefront of the school’s plan when it set out to move to Division I.
“In order to stay within the Board’s 6.5 percent cap on tuition and fee increases, WSSU also chose to forgo any tuition increase,” she wrote. “While an athletic fee of this size would not be out of line with other institutions in the same athletic conference, it would be hundreds of dollars higher than any other UNC campus.
“Given the small size of WSSU’s student body (about 6,400 full-time and part-time students), its stadium rental costs, the relatively small outside financial support the campus receives, and other factors, WSSU had no other revenue options to finance the transition beyond student fees.”
WSSU’s athletics budget for the current academic year projects a deficit of $1.5 million, to be made up using other university resources. The deficit for the first three years of the transition is $2.6 million.
Student fees generated $2.9 million for athletics at WSSU this school year, and the increase Reaves requested would generate about $4 million for the next school year.
Chico Caldwell, WSSU’s athletics director since 2000, was asked about the possibility of going back to a Division II conference. “My only take on it is the only person to talk to about that is the chancellor,” Caldwell said. “I’m going forward, I never look back.”
Reaves couldn’t be reached for comment. He was not at the basketball games against N.C. A&T at Joel Coliseum on Jan. 24 or at Monday’s game against Norfolk State.
Caldwell said he hasn’t heard from any alumni about the possibility of going back to the CIAA.
“The people I talk to are looking forward in this thing,” Caldwell said. “We started this move four years ago, and (if we go back to) Division II, there would be a four-year process, and I can’t imagine spending eight years in transition, so that’s eight years of nothing.”
The transition period back to Division II could actually be shorter than four years.
Stacey Osburn, an associate director of public and media relations for the NCAA, says that there is a bylaw that says an “active member” of Division I would have a three-year transition to Division II.
WSSU is not yet an “active member” of Division I. Osburn said that another bylaw says that the school can petition the Division II Membership Committee for an immediate return.
Leon Kerry, the commissioner of the CIAA, said that his conference would take WSSU back without hesitation. Osburn said that’s another plus for WSSU.
“If the CIAA commissioner is that strong about them coming back, then that would make it easier on the Division II Committee to decide,” Osburn said.
Victor Bruinton, the president of WSSU’s national alumni association and a 1982 graduate, says he prefers to stay the course.
“I don’t think that’s an option to go back,” he said. “I would like to finish what we started.”
Alston did not want to speculate on what would happen if WSSU did not get the fee increase it requested, saying it would send the wrong message.
“The board has to make the final decision on whatever the chancellor puts forward, and then we would discuss it and make sure we know what it all means,” Alston said. “We make the best decisions for the university working together with the chancellor.”
Athletics fees in UNC system
2008-09 Req. Pct. 2009-10
School fee increase increase proposed
WSSU $579.00 $181.30 31.3 $760.30
UNC Asheville 590.00 15.00 2.5 605.00
UNC Pembroke 562.00 15.00 2.7 577.00
Western Carolina 533.00 34.00 6.4 567.00
Appalachian 529.00 30.00 5.7 559.00
N.C. Central 507.45 40.79 8.0 548.24
N.C. A&T 461.00 41.00 8.9 502.00
East Carolina 481.00 15.00 3.1 496.00
UNC Charlotte 460.00 23.00 5.0 483.00
Elizabeth City 463.00 0.00 0.0 463.00
UNC Greensboro 444.00 17.00 3.8 461.00
Fayetteville State 373.00 55.00 14.7 428.00
UNC Wilmington 409.00 11.65 2.8 420.65
North Carolina 255.00 10.00 3.9 265.00
N.C. State 134.00 16.50 12.3 150.50
WSSU requested fee raise to play in Division I
By John Dell, The Winston-Salem Journal (NC)