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UND's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee recommends keeping all 20 sports

UND Swimming head coach Chris Maiello gives his presentation Tuesday afternoon to the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee and President Kennedy and a room full of supporters at Robin Hall in Grand Forks.1 / 2
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A UND committee recommended Monday to keep all 20 sports programs and leave the final decision on their future to the school president.

In its last scheduled meeting before the Nov. 1 deadline, the university's Intercollegiate Athletic Committee forwarded a recommendation to UND President Mark Kennedy to keep all the school's sports by increasing the athletics department's revenue.

The proposal calls, in part, for an increase in institutional support from UND, an increase in student fees, increase in ticket prices and restructuring the contracts with the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Alerus Center.

"The reality is this is a problem that needs to be borne by a lot of different stakeholders, whether its ticket holders, the student body as a whole, the REA and Alerus Center," said Eric Murphy, the committee member who proposed the changes.

In a 15-0 vote with one abstention, the committee voted to forward the recommendation to Kennedy.

The committee, which is advisory, has been asked by Kennedy to examine the UND Athletic Department's financing, conference affiliation, the number of sports it sponsors and the number of athletes it has on campus. He asked for the group's recommendation by Nov. 1. Kennedy has said he will make any final decisions on keeping sports programs himself.

The motion forwarded to Kennedy proposes the following changes:

• Increase direct institutional support for UND athletics by no more than $7.3 million.

• Increase the student fee for athletics from $10.69 per credit hour to $14.50 per credit hour.

• Increase ticket prices by 25 percent across all sports for which tickets are required.

• Increase the distribution of ticket revenue from 48 percent to 60 percent.

• Reduce the number of complimentary tickets.

• Restructure the agreements with the Ralph Engelstad Arena and the Alerus Center.

• Add scholarships to fully fund each sport at the allotment of scholarships permitted by NCAA.

• Keep all 20 sports.

Murphy, an associate professor in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences who proposed the changes, said he decided to make the motion after taking a look at the budget and hearing from coaches and athletes at the committee's last meeting.

There's a way to keep all sports at UND, Murphy said, as long as the community comes together to help fund them.

"That got me thinking of a way to distribute this among different stakeholders," Murphy said. "And that's not easy. It's a hard sell, but I think this community will step up. They showed it during the flood."

While nobody on the committee said they wanted to see sports cut, some said they felt there were too many contingencies in the proposal for it to be feasible.

Sue Jeno, the faculty athletic representative, said the last thing she wants to see is a sport cut, but she wondered if the proposal is sustainable in the long term.

"I don't want to lose a single sport and I don't want to lose a single athlete," Jeno said. "That's my role: to protect the role of the student-athletes. But we also have to present the president with something that's sustainable going forward and when the Legislature meets next January and decided to take another 10 percent off, how do we do that? The president said he doesn't want to deal with this again."

In a statement following the meeting, Kennedy said he looks forward to reviewing the committee's proposal and the athletics department should be funded at a level that puts it in a position to win.

The proposal, however, includes agreements with other parties, which makes it dependent on multiple stakeholders, including community members and fans, Kennedy said.

"Even if agreement from all parties is obtained, it is not clear that such sources would fulfill the increased funding proposed," Kennedy said in a statement. "As several committee members discussed, and as a resource document that was available and discussed by the committee before the vote states, increasing institutional funding for athletics up to $7.3 million would require the reallocation of resources from other priorities, including academics."

Twelve sports — men's and women's hockey, men's and women's basketball, football, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, men's and women's cross country, and volleyball — were identified as programs that UND is committed to sponsoring and appear to be safe from being cut.

The eight other sports — men's and women's tennis, men's and women's swimming and diving, men's and women's golf, women's soccer and softball — could be on the chopping block.

Coaches and athletes representing those eight teams gave presentations to the committee and Kennedy in an effort to save their programs.

The committee previously had discussed the possibility of cutting two, three or four sports. To begin Monday's meeting, the athletics department presented scenarios of what the department would look like if it had 16, 17 or 18 sports.

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

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