Reacting to Budget Cuts

By Staff

Athletic Management, 15.4, June/July 2003,

Like many others across the country, the Evansville-Vanderburgh (Ind.) School District, is facing budget cuts that will affect athletics. Starting in the fall, coaching stipends will disappear completely from the school budget.

The move was suggested by the district’s teachers’ association during collective bargaining, and the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Board has approved the cut. The district will save $1.2 million dollars by eliminating all extra-curricular stipends for one year with coaches’ stipends making up about two-thirds of that total.

The good news for Evansville-Vanderburgh coaches is that they have Steve Fritz as their District Supervisor of Athletics, who has not given up on the idea of paying coaches. He is currently in the process of creating an “extracurricular fund” and is looking to fill the coffers in a variety of ways: by asking the community for donations, pursuing a soft drink contract, and asking the area’s major employers to contribute. He’s also asked the town’s mayor to chip in, perhaps by redirecting funds earmarked for a now-defunct plan to build a professional baseball stadium.

“There are lots of reasons for the mayor to step up and contribute,” Fritz says. “It’s important in drawing people to our community, and it’s a safety issue because coaches are in charge of these kids between 3 and 6 p.m., which has the highest crime rate for juvenile delinquency.”

Monies collected in the extracurricular fund will be distributed among all staff members whose stipends were pulled from the budget, including those who work with non-sport extracurricular activities. “Athletics provides much of the driving force behind finding the funding,” Fritz says, “but everyone will get the same percentage of whatever dollars we collect that they got out of the 1.2 million that was in the budget last year.”

Fritz says coaches’ responses to the cut have run the gamut. “For some of our young, successful, marketable coaches, if they aren’t paid to do it here, they’ll eventually go elsewhere, and that’s perfectly understandable,” he says. On average, a varsity head football coach earns $8,000. “But most of our coaches have said, ‘The stipend is important, but I’m also in it for the love of it. I don’t want our kids to be shortchanged, so I’m going to coach whether they can pay me or not.’”