February 6, 2012

After Budget Cuts, Club Sports Organize

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Correction appended

Monday night marked the first official meeting of the new Club Sports Council, which was formed after significant budget cuts last semester. The council represents 32 teams and about 900 student athletes.

Club sports, as well as other clubs funded by the Student Assembly Finance Commission, faced a $2,700 funding cap for fall 2011, a major reduction from the previous year’s $5,000 cap, The Sun reported in October. The yearly budget allocated to club teams dropped about 50 percent from the previous year, from $10,000 to $5,000.

Tom Hayford grad, CSC co-founder and former captain of the men’s club lacrosse team, said the organization aims to eventually transition club sports from SAFC to byline funding.

“A lot of teams were struggling [with the cuts], and it was easier to get everyone together under that umbrella,” Hayford said. “One of our main goals is bringing the teams together to form a new community and improve the quality of club sports.”

Student Assembly Vice President Adam Gitlin ’13, who attended the meeting Monday night, said the SAFC cuts resulted from the increase in the number of student organizations that applied for funding for fall 2011.

Gitlin and S.A. President Natalie Raps ’12 both said they believe the CSC is a positive development for the University’s club sports teams.

“Currently, there’s little governance or formal coordination between these teams,” Gitlin said. “The president or captain is very internal for each sport. Through the council they can come together to address internal governance and finance.”

Raps described the CSC as “a coalition that was never there before — a unifying umbrella” comparable to the overarching organizations for varsity and intramural sports.

The idea for the council originated last semester as a way to grow the Club Sports Committee, which formed under the S.A. to solve short-term problems caused by the SAFC cuts. Hayford and Rebecca Velez ’12, captain and president of club ultimate frisbee and a sports writer for The Sun, said they decided to focus on four main issues that face club sports: finances, fundraising, resources and facilities, and outreach.

While some teams can fall back on alumni contributions, not all teams have a well-established alumni network.  Some say they will be forced to find alternative funds to supplement the resources no longer provided by the University.

“We don’t quite have that alumni base to fall back on, it was never built up,” said Catherine Forbes ’14, president of women’s club rugby. “It’s a huge disadvantage, and we have to work on that because considering the budget cuts, it’s our only other source of income.”

As alternate sources of funding, women’s rugby is considering bake sales and selling team apparel, she said.

According to Briton Gergen ’13, treasurer of club swimming, his team also lacks a strong alumni base for fundraising, since the team has been an official club sport for only about a year. He cited the sailing team, which he said has an extensive network of alumni donors.

“That’s something we’d hope to have in the future, given the opportunity to expand,” Gergen said, though adding that the budget cuts will probably hinder that growth.

Hayford and Velez said they hope to create a centralized alumni database, to make it easier for teams to obtain financial support.

But until then, Gergen said he sees the financial burdens associated with the recent cuts as falling directly on the students in the form of membership dues.

“I think it’s going to discourage new clubs from trying to form, prevent clubs that have just started from expanding, hurt clubs that are already established and big, and increase dues that are already high,” Gergen said of the cuts.

Chiao added that attending Cornell imposes signficant financial burden on students even without the added costs of participating in activities on campus.

“When I was applying to Cornell, they were saying how great it is to have over 800 student organizations, but little did we know those student organizations were struggling financially,” Chiao said.

Other club presidents said the financial burdens would detract from the sport itself.

“Our players are so committed and we all love the sport, but when we have no funding and our team members have to pay $100 a semester just to play sometimes, it’s discouraging,” Forbes said.

Hayford said the council also plans to improve the number of resources and facilities available to club sports teams.

“A lot of teams have to use off-campus resources, and it’s a huge financial burden,” he said.

Hayford said he hopes to work with the athletics department to find a way to use some of Cornell’s better sports facilities.

“It would decrease the amount of travel, and travel is a huge expense,” he said. “Resources and finances are tied together, and improving resources would allow us to require less money from the SAFC.”

Forbes said women’s rugby has limited access to Cornell’s rugby field and as a result has to practice from 10 p.m. to midnight.

According to Hayford, the council plans to promote club sports and increase their visibility. He noted that it is difficult to find information about club sports on the athletics department website.

Velez said that much of the larger Cornell community does not understand the competitiveness of club sports. Hayford emphasized that the 32 teams approved for CSC membership were chosen because of the skill and rigor of their programs.

“We’re talking about teams that compete in intercollegiate competition, are part of leagues, have playoffs, national championships, things like that,” Hayford said.

Chiao added that the lack of resources allocated to club sports may give other schools a bad impression of Cornell.

“We represent the University,” Chiao said. “When Cornell students show up in a rusty minivan to a meet whereas other schools show up in coach buses, fully uniformed, it doesn’t reflect well on Cornell.”

Hayford echoed Chiao’s sentiments, noting that Cornell has a lot to gain by supporting club sports teams.

“We have 32 teams playing a large number of schools, and they see a poorly-supported organization representing Cornell,” Hayford said. “It’s known in our region that we don’t get any facilities, and have to rely on other schools to host games because we can never do anything here.”

Correction: A previous version of this article contained multiple errors. The article incorrectly quoted Adam Gitlin ’13, vice president of the Student Assembly, as saying that every organization that applied for SAFC funding received less money. The quote was inaccurate, and, in fact, some organizations that applied for SAFC funding did not receive less money. Additionally, this article incorrectly said that Rebecca Velez ’12 co-founded the Club Sports Council. In fact, the club was founded by Tom Hayford grad and Dan Goldberg ’14.

Original Author: Emma Court