By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
Several school departments will suffer budget cuts next fall due to the $5.5 million savings plan announced by ACU president Dr. Royce Money Tuesday, but none as drastic as the athletic department. The $351,000 cut proposed by the Athletics Strategic Solutions Team (SST) outweighs any other department or program reduction.
The athletic cuts will affect the program in three major ways:
*Athletic scholarships will reduce by 10 percent, a task that will be left up to each athletic team’s coach to decide.
*The pool for athletic fifth-year scholarships will reduce from $110,000 to $75,000. In other words, student-athletes who have completed their eligibility but still have hours remaining for graduation will receive less money.
*The athletic director position will remain open until determined otherwise by the President’s Cabinet. Dr. Gary McCaleb, chief athletics administrator, and Jared Mosley, associate director of athletics, will continue to share the responsibilities they acquired when Shanon Hays resigned last April.
According to Mosley, who was one of eight members on the Athletics SST [13 SSTs existed in all], the process of making cuts began early last fall with weekly meetings, followed by the proposal to the Presi-dent’s Cabinet in November.
“We had lots of different recommendations,” Mosley said. “We discussed the pros and cons and ranked our choices all the way down to what we thought wasn’t acceptable.”
McCaleb, who along with Vice President of Finance Phil Schubert was a cabinet liaison for the Athletics SST, said one of the proposals discussed even involved cutting sports.
“We dismissed that idea because we realized if we did that, we’d be cutting students, and therefore cutting revenue,” McCaleb said.
Although the eventual decision was hard to make, McCaleb said it was a necessary one considering the timing of the cuts.
“It’s always a tough thing to do,” he said, “but one of the keys of a strong organization is to make tough decisions while it’s still financially strong, rather than weak,” he said.
As a result of the scholarship cuts, McCaleb said each coach will decide how to be more frugal with his reduced money. Because one scholarship does not necessarily mean one person, he said some coaches might have to reduce scholarships to one-half or one-fourth of what they were before to distribute them more evenly among players.
Men’s basketball Head coach Klint Pleasant said the cuts would most likely affect him in his future recruting efforts.
“It’s important that the university understands that we need to honor the commitments we made to our current athletes before this [cabinet] decision was made,” Pleasant said. “My concern is being able to add the recruits I want to. I’m not necessarily happy about the decision, but it’s something I’ll have to work with.”
Mosley said the scholarship cuts likely won’t affect Wildcat players or competitiveness.
“I don’t think you’ll see a big reduction in numbers,” he said. “That’s just my gut feeling. I think we’ll be able to weather through this just fine, and maintain a high level of competiveness throughout the conference, region and nation.”
McCaleb said the department’s new junior varsity/ walk-on program already has and will continue to boost the school’s revenue.
Money gave what he called a “conservative estimate” of 60 JV athletes joining ACU this year, although the number is probably higher. For the 2002-03 school year, ACU reported 288 total athletes, a number that has jumped to 384 in ’03-04, mostly due to the JV program.
“That’s not all JV increases, but that’s a significant increase,” McCaleb said. “If you stick with that number of 60 and most of them come back next year, then we bring another 60 in-every year we’re filling the pipeline fuller.”