Eastern Michigan: We’re keeping football – Detroit Free Press

6 months ago Comments Off on Eastern Michigan: We’re keeping football – Detroit Free Press

Eastern Michigan University’s top leaders were blunt in an open letter sent Tuesday to their community – we’ve got no plans to ever drop football and we’re not thinking about switching conferences.

“We have absolutely no plans to eliminate football or move into any other division or conference,” the letter said. “We are pleased to be a member of an outstanding conference, the Mid-American Conference, where all of our sports and our talented student athletes have the opportunity to compete at the highest levels with neighboring institutions in the Midwest. Any headlines or claims that Eastern is considering dropping football, or reducing our support of the program in any way, are false.”

The open letter – sent via email to the media and the university’s community – was signed by interim President Donald Loppnow, incoming President James Smith and the eight members of the Board of Regents.

The letter is the reaction to nearly a week of media reports on Eastern’s athletic budget and a subsidy sent from the general fund to help support athletics.

On Friday, the faculty union and student government released a report calling for Eastern to drop football and switch conferences to save student money. After the Free Press wrote about the report on Monday, a wave of stories followed. Last week, a report on HBO Real Sports was also highly critical of Eastern’s spending.

EMU, like all but a few universities in the nation, doesn’t make enough money from athletics to cover its costs. So it sends the department a subsidy from the general fund, which is largely made up of student tuition and state aid. The athletic department spent $33.9 million in the 2014-15 school year, according to data collected by USA TODAY and published earlier this week. Of that amount, more than $27 million, or 80%, came from institutional support. That percentage is the highest in EMU’s league, the Mid-American Conference.

The report suggests that the university consider joining a different league to cut costs but still offer athletics.

“A broader discussion should take place on campus on the role of athletics at EMU and whether it would be beneficial to consider moving EMU out of the MAC and into another league, such as the Horizon League (with Detroit Mercy, Oakland University, etc.), that do not require fielding the most expensive team sports to be members.”

The faculty/student government report says athletic spending at Eastern has increased over the past 10 years from around $20 million in 2005 to more than $33 million in 2015, an increase of over 65%. During the same time period, athletic revenues have declined from around $10 million to almost $7 million.

The open letter said Eastern is committed to its athletics program as it exists.

“We are 100 percent supportive of our current Athletics administration, particularly Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Heather Lyke She has assembled an outstanding support team and we already have seen positive results in terms of continuing Eastern’s championship traditions in a number of our sports, as well as in many new initiatives to increase revenues. As an example, year-to-date, fundraising has increased by nearly $430,000.  

“Two-and-a-half years ago, she hired an outstanding football coach in Chris Creighton. Now entering his third year and with the majority of the team now made up of his recruits, we believe the best is ahead in terms of on the field and academic performance. We believe very strongly in Coach Creighton and his efforts to rebuild the program.”

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or djesse@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj

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