Athletics Cutting Back on Spending

A fixture of leisure in America is sports. Athletics are a prime way to generate interest and attract students to academic institutions. It is quite common knowledge at this point that the American economy is not soaring as high as it used to. When the economy takes a downswing, state-funded schools are among the first to feel the pinch.

Here at Santa Monica College, the effects of the times were felt at the outset of this semester, when Athletic Director Gregg Simmons was tasked with the tall order of trimming 10 percent off of his budget. One of his goals was "to make cuts in other areas so that staff wouldn't need to be cut."

When money gets tight, the easiest measure is to decimate staff, however Simmons tried to avoid such an inelegant solution.

One area in which he was able to save money was cross-country, which had been two separate teams for men and women. Simmons eliminated the division between the two teams by uniting them under one name and one coach, Eric Barron.

Something that many community colleges in Southern California are considering is a realignment of conferences for the sake of what Simmons called "cost-containment."

One solution that would alleviate cost is inefficient travel schedules. It costs money to move a team somewhere for a day. The farther the team has to travel, the more expensive the trip becomes.

Complicating the issue is the disparity between colleges for athletic facilities. Simmons mentioned that some colleges lack a pool and playing against such a college in a water polo match would be as awkward as it is impossible.

As if anticipating the tight times to come, there were recent realignments to the Southern California Football Association, which organized all participating colleges into geographically-based conferences with the aim of cutting down travel distances.

"There won't be too much competitive difference but logistics will be much improved," Simmons said, regarding the consequences of realignment.

A decision that looms large following the conclusion of the 2009 Corsair Football season is the future of the head coaching position. It remains undecided as to what the nature of the position would be and there are many options to consider.

Coach Robert Taylor, the former SMC head coach who passed away this past season, had been on staff for many years as a teacher with all the benefits of tenure.

The school could institute this traditional classification for the head coach. However, other options to consider include having the position be a purely part-time job to just coach the team and to not give the coach full teaching recognition or tenure.

This classification would seem to cost less money while limiting total responsibilities. Another intriguing option Simmons mentioned was having only walk-on coaches who are paid via a stipend.

This arrangement would pay more in the short term but would increase accountability, as a coach in such a position would be reevaluated every season.

Another major issue affecting sports across the country is a problem all too common at a Corsair athletic event: attendance.

Anyone who has watched the NFL this season may have noticed the increased number of games where the stadiums are surprisingly empty.

Due to the structure of exclusive television deals, one requirement is that for a game to be broadcast locally the stadium must sell out every seat. If this condition is not met, a local television "blackout" is enacted.

Thankfully, no matter how bad things might get it is very hard to envision SMC with no activity in the Athletic Building or at Corsair Stadium. Though student and fan support at games is sparse, sports and athletics remain an integral part of the college experience, one that will hopefully never fully disappear.