Eastern athletics brought in a consultant as a result of budget cuts

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern athletic department brought in a consultant to do an evaluation of Eastern athletics at the beginning of the spring semester.

“She did a comprehensive review of the athletic department and looked at all of our programs and department’s units to determine what we were offering and at what level we were doing,” Athletic Director Tom Michael said.

Helen Grant came in and met with every head coach at Eastern as well as a few student-athletes from each team, the Eastern support staff and administratively, Michael said.

Just like every area on campus, athletics was affected by Springfield’s inability to pass a budget.

Eastern had to cut $320,000 from athletics last summer, Michael said.

“It’s been difficult on campus,” Michael said. “We have positions that remain open, we have coaching positions that we haven’t been able to fill because of our hiring freeze. That’s made it difficult.”

Eastern football coach Kim Dameron’s staff has four positions that have not been able to be filled.

The Panthers went through recruiting and spring practice without those positions.

“Our normal staff consists of me and 10 full-time coaches,” Dameron said. “This spring we had four full-time positions open and the coaches we had took mandatory pay reductions or furlough days.”

Dameron said they had to do 40 percent more work on significantly less pay.

“This includes coaching and recruiting in a tough environment,” Dameron said. “The number of players we have on our team doesn’t fluctuate with enrollment. This was difficult but we didn’t sit around and wallow in self-pity. We had a job to do and we did it.”

Football is not the only program affected by the lack of money. Michael said they have been prudent on team’s recruiting.

“We’ve really tried to manage it with our coaches,” Michael said. “Being extremely prudent on their recruiting visits. We have really been prudent on when we bring recruits on campus, who we’re bringing in, things like that, so it’s really shaped us.”

The teams aren’t just recruiting for the fall of 2016, teams have already begun recruiting for 2018.

Teams have to keep recruiting but there have been some restraints put on them from a pure budgetary standpoint, Michael said.

“As important as it is to get out there, it’s obviously immediately important that we do everything we can to balance the budget this year,” Michael said.

As of right now, Kiki Lara is the soccer director, after being the men’s head coach last season. He is still coaching the men but oversees the program as a whole as well.

Jason Cherry was not rehired as the women’s soccer coach for next year, so last year’s assistant coach, Raymundo Gonzalez, has been helping to work with the women as their coach.

“When we get the approval to hire another coach then we’ll have to make that decision,” Michael said. “Raymundo has done a great job this spring (with the women).”

Grant was here for a week at the beginning of the semester to complete her evaluation of Eastern athletics.

“The information preliminary has been very beneficial to us as we have evaluated where we’re at, what we need to do and what needs to take place,” Michael said. “We’re still grinding out the financial details of everything that’s taking place without a state budget, that’s complicating things.”

The athletic department is working with President David Glassman and the president’s council to get all the information they need to make the best decision, in addition to the information Grant found in her review of the department.

A few other duties Grant had while she was here was looking at the budget, scholarships being offered, all aspects of what they are doing from a departmental and experience standpoint and how it falls in relation to Title IX.

Michael added that staying compliant to Title IX is an important piece of the process they are going through.

The women’s rugby team was suspended at the beginning of the year due to safety reasons.

“That was part of the evaluation,” Michael said. “I think the concert remains with rugby that it was in the fall in terms of interest level in that and the impact level that it had.”

There is no word on whether a program will have to be cut. Michael and Glassman talk weekly in regards to where enrollment will be in the fall and what kind of impact it will have on the institution as a whole.

Michael said it is tough to say where things will be because there is “not a light to say we’re going to get the money here…and this is how we can proceed.”

 

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]