Jan. 21, 2004
FRESNO, Calif. - A valiant effort by boosters and student-athletes -- in partnership with the university -- has fallen short of a goal to secure guaranteed funding for the Bulldogs soccer and swimming programs for now at Fresno State.
But as a result of the booster's efforts in nearly reaching the goal, the university is placing the programs on a one-year hiatus -- rather than terminating the programs completely. That will allow the boosters the opportunity to keep building on those efforts to raise the guaranteed funds needed, said Dr. Paul Oliaro, vice president for student affairs and dean of students who serves as chairman of the Athletics Corporation board.
University officials and boosters jointly announced today that $1.6 million was pledged during the eight-month campaign to raise the $2.05 million guarantee that was needed to support the programs' annual operating budgets for a rolling four-year period.
However, a total of $1.2 million of that $2.05 million could be guaranteed by boosters -- leaving too wide a gap, $800,000, to allow the programs to continue normally for next year, said Oliaro.
Randall Smith of the Valley Soccer Foundation and Diane Anderson, swimming fundraising coordinator, reported this morning to the Athletics Corporation that the goal for the guarantees needed is not attainable at this time.
"We are disappointed that we could not overcome this challenge at this time and we wish to thank the community for its support of our efforts during this campaign," Smith said. "However, our job is not complete. We will continue to work for the revival of these important programs. The support we encountered showed that it can be done."
Oliaro said the university is committed to working with community supporters of the programs.
"We want very much for the programs to continue at Fresno State, but as stewards of a public institution, we must ensure that they are properly funded," Oliaro said. "This $800,000 gap will be a tough hurdle to overcome but we will have to overcome it if we want the programs to continue with adequate funding. We are willing to keep working with them on this."
Both Smith and Anderson said they are pleased that the one-year hiatus has been extended and that it provides an energizing boost to continue the campaign for the 2004-05 season and beyond.
Anderson praised the boosters and donors for their work and the university for its receptiveness to continued efforts as well as for demonstrating flexibility during the campaign, including efforts by the Athletics Department staff to re-work the budget from a $2.7 million initial projection for operating the programs.
"The swimming community is committed to continuing fundraising efforts and is pleased to have the additional time to raise these funds," Anderson said.
Fresno State Athletics Director Scott Johnson said, "This was a difficult action to take. We are grateful to all those who worked so hard to maintain the funding for these two sports for this year.
"As I have said before, we did not want to cut sports programs, but after extensive review and implementing other cost-saving measures the past two years, we have exhausted our options. We could not continue to sacrifice the quality of our programs by further watering them down."
Johnson said these cuts are extremely painful but he has been encouraged by the discussions with the boosters and the plan to hold off for a year.
"I feel that this moratorium leaves the door open to reinstate the programs in the future," he said.
The Fresno State Athletics Corporation Board of Trustees voted last April to eliminate the men's soccer, men's cross country, men's indoor track and field and women's swimming and diving as a cost-cutting measure recommended by Athletics Director Scott Johnson to achieve a balanced operating budget.
The cuts were intended to save the Fresno State Athletics Department more than $557,000 for 2003-04, and a net savings of $1.6 million over the next three years. For the past seven consecutive years, the Fresno State Athletics Department failed to post a balanced budget, including in 2002-03, when significant budget cuts implemented failed to achieve the objective.
Further budget cuts had to be made to implement a balance budget for 2003-04, including the elimination of the men's cross country and indoor track and field teams in addition to the men's soccer and women's swimming and diving teams.
While the cuts were initially planned for this fall, the boosters were able to raise funds in May to keep them alive through the 2003-04 season pending a follow-up campaign for a four-year plan that the university required in order to fully continue the programs. That follow-up deadline was set for Jan. 15 but the university worked with the boosters to allow a few more days for a report.
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