RMAC commish: Conference doing what it can to save money in tough times
By ALLEN GEMAEHLICH
COLORADO SPRINGS — The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference is one of the largest NCAA Division II conference in the country in terms of square miles.
However, it is the largest not to have airfare in its travel budget.
With these economic times, that lack of funds provides some strain and challenges on the RMAC and its members.
“The economy is a huge challenge for a couple different reasons,” RMAC Commissioner J.R. Smith said. “The state of Colorado, and to a smaller extent Nebraska, hasn’t funded higher education very well at least for the last 25 years.
“A lot of people forget higher education took a budget cut two years ago. It didn’t necessarily affect athletics, but in the end, we are part of the overall admission of college institutions. You’ve got to expect large type cuts to impact athletics. We sweated through the big $500 million one they resolved with the stimulus money, but the problem is that’s only for two years and it goes away.”
The RMAC consists of 14 schools, and the distance between the two schools that are the farthest apart is more than 1,000 miles.
“For us, one of the hardest parts to deal with is travel,” Smith said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to be economical about travel, trying to look at our schedule so it makes sense. It’s a tough challenge because we’re so spread out. We’ve got put together a semi-competitive schedule. At the end, there’s only so much we can do with it.”
The RMAC made one decision for the upcoming year in an effort to save money.
The baseball and softball season will be reduced from 56 to 50 regular-season games (RMAC and non-conference games), even though the rest of the Division II schools will stay with 56 games in the spring of 2010. “One of the proposals at the NCAA Convention in January (2010) is to move baseball back to 50 games ,” Smith said. “We decided to go ahead and do it.
“It’s a two-fold effort. One to save money, but also to save the wear and tear on coaches and student-athletes.”
Another issue the national committee is planning on addressing is the start of fall practices.
Currently, student-athletes in football, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer report up to two to three weeks before classes start.
The cost to house and feed the student-athletes is the responsibility of the institution’s athletic department.
“There is a large cost in that,” Smith said. “It’s pretty expensive and you’re cutting into a kid’s summer vacation. ”
The economy has the University of Nebraska-Kearney considering leaving the RMAC. Smith said the institution hired a consultant to do a financial analysis and is awaiting the results.
If Kearney decides to leave the RMAC, it would require a two-year notice.
If would also force the RMAC to possibly look for a new member.
“Since Fort Hays left (in 2006), we’ve been analyzing our membership and what we need to do,” Smith said. “Everything is going to be driven by cost. We’ll be spending some time to see if we can come up with some solutions.”
Smith said they are looking at finding other ways to economize the budget, including going back to pod games in volleyball, like a couple years ago, where one school will host matches against two or three other schools .
The RMAC is also considering cost sharing amongst RMAC tournament participants.