The NCAA requires a university to maintain seven priority sports and fund them at 80 percent in scholarships in order to be considered Div. I.
The seven sports that are considered priority by the Big West conference out of CSUFâ€™s 15 are men and womenâ€™s basketball, men and womenâ€™s soccer, baseball, softball and womenâ€™s volleyball. CSUF is currently Div. I defending champions in both baseball and womenâ€™s volleyball.
CSUF is now at the bare minimum seven priority sports and is in jeopardy of being bumped to Div. II if its expenditures continue to exceed the current budget.
â€œWe have some issues in terms of whether or not we can meet our minimum funding at the Div. I level,â€ said Steve DiTolla, associate senior athletics director. â€œIn the NCAA, the Div. I level is defined, outside of men and womenâ€™s basketball, you need to have 50 scholarships, full scholarships, and we are dangerously close to not being that far.â€
The full scholarships are split evenly between the men and womenâ€™s priority sports, DiTolla explained. The CSUF athletics budget barely covers these fees even after terminating both menâ€™s wrestling and womanâ€™s gymnastics during spring in order to meet budgetary obligations.
The budgeted athletics scholarship fund for 2011-12 is about $2.1 million and was not increased to accommodate the additional 12 percent tuition fee increase that affected every student on campus.
â€œWhen we are issuing scholarships, we pay the school for our student athletes,â€ DiTolla said. â€œSo as each one of you got hit (with tuition fee increases) we got hit to the tune of about $90,000.â€
The Athletics Department has a baseline budget of nearly $3.7 million, which covers the state salaries of the full-time department staff of about 60 and operational expenses.
Brian Quinn, CSUF athletics director, explained that the baseline budget has stayed nearly the same over the past 10 years, while operational expenses continue to climb. The cost for travel, whether by bus or plane, has risen and airlines now charge for each extra piece of luggage and the teams all have a lot of gear.
State funding is not permitted to pay for scholarships, which places the financial burden directly on students and relies on revenue from ticket sales and facilities rentals, explained Quinn.
â€œThe state canâ€™t pay for scholarships,â€ said Quinn. â€œStudents pay for that. The ASI, you and all of your peers are paying for all these other kids to go to school here.â€
Quinn explained that every time the state raises tuition fees, the cost of athletics operations and scholarships required by the NCAA go up.
He explained that when the chancellor decided to cut off student enrollment over the past couple years, the department lost thousands of dollars as a result.
The way the Athletics Department receives money from student enrollment every semester is through Associated Students Inc. According to ASIâ€™s 2011-12 operating budget, $22 of the $74 AS fee every student pays per semester is allocated to CSUF Athletics scholarships.
This AS fee brought nearly $1.5 million to fund athletic scholarships for the fall. The university recently announced it would be accepting new students for the spring semester, which will generate a small boost of extra income that the department needs.
In return for this money from ASI, all CSUF students are admitted free to athletic events held on the CSUF campus.
Randy Cho said he is like many students on campus and doesnâ€™t have extra time to come to sporting events on campus, even if they are free.
â€œBeing a commuter school, there’s no true campus life. There’s really no other involvement with school outside of class,â€ said Cho, 22, a liberal studies major.
â€œI donâ€™t think a majority of the students would donate extra money to our Athletics Department. Aside from baseball, our sports teams aren’t top notch and the facilities they have are already adequate enough,â€ he said.
DiTolla, who has worked in CSUF athletics since 1985, said there isnâ€™t an expenditure problem and that the Athletics Department is probably the most frugal department on campus. Student athletes eat on $25 per day when theyâ€™re on the road.
â€œSometimes the way we travel and have traveled over the years is creative to say the least, but I think we have a revenue problem,â€ DiTolla said. â€œI donâ€™t think our revenues match up with what we spend and we are at a point right now where our expenditures are so low if we go any different, we will change the dynamics of our department.â€
DiTolla and Quinn said itâ€™s hard to generate revenue when the students attend the events for free and the venue holds only 4,000 people. This has led to the department trying many creative ways to generate additional revenue and find new ways of producing dollars for the department.
Some of these past options have included renting out the facilities for events like the Vans Warped Tour or the Hootenany Festival, but the department would like to find ways of improving the campus and reinvesting into the improvement of Fullertonâ€™s 20-year-old Titan Stadium.
â€œGate receipts are up, facility rentals are up and fundraising is up,â€ DiTolla said. â€œWe had a few referendums that failed, but we have gone to the university with our strategic plan and we have not had approval yet, again because of the budgetary situation and what may happen toward the end of the year.â€
Quinn said the Athletics Department has met with developers who are interested in investing into and renovating the stadium with the intent of bringing it to the level of hosting professional athletic teams.
Most recently, Chivas USA hosted the U.S. Open Cup third-round game at Titan Stadium in June and July 20 played their first official Orange County Major League Soccer match versus the New England Revolution.
â€œWeâ€™re working with Chivas right now and weâ€™re trying to see if we canâ€™t get some more rental income into this stadium,â€ Quinn said. â€œWe are trying to find that kind of outside source. Relying on the students is difficult.â€
Titan Stadium will be hosting the L.A. Galaxy vs. Chivas USA Sunday Oct. 16.