Special Report: Breaking Down the Athletics Budget

Pomona-Pitzer’s sports coaches are not breaking the campus budget, a close analysis of athletic spending shows. Men’s golf is pricey. Women’s track is cheap. And the Sagehens get outspent two to one by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in athletics.

In 2011, the P-P athletic department spent a total of $2,177,673 according to a report mandated by the NCAA’s Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act. The department’s budget supports the 386 student athletes at Pomona and Pitzer Colleges as well the 19 head coaches, 41 assistant coaches, and various staff members.

Each year, the athletic department’s budget is decided upon by the college as part of the Department and General Expense category. According to Pomona Vice President and Treasurer Karen Sisson, this general category contains all of the academic department budgets, excluding salaries, maintenance, and large equipment purchases. The budget is decided in this manner to ensure that there isn’t competition between the various departments and programs for resources, a policy that Sisson sees as integral to the liberal arts mission at Pomona.

The athletic department budget contains five basic categories of expenses. The first category is the head coaches’ salaries. The longstanding policy of the athletic department has been to hire each head coach as a faculty member of the physical education department. This is why, in addition to running a varsity team, the P-P head coaches can be seen at Rains Center teaching all the physical education classes offered at Pomona. In recent years, the department has moved away from this policy, hiring men’s tennis coach Ben Belleto, women’s lacrosse coach Sarah Queener, and golf coach Bernie Walker as staff coaches. However, Belleto and Queener will be moving into faculty positions in the fall.

For 2011, P-P reported $779,906 in expenses relating to coaches’ salaries, working out to an average of $41,364 for head coaches of men’s teams and $40,763 for the head coaches of the women’s teams. For most of the coaches, this isn’t the only compensation they receive, as their faculty salary is reported in the school’s central budget.

The second category of spending accounts for the assistant coaches’ salaries. In 2011, this was reported at $166,956, working out to an average of $5,355 for the 20 salaried men’s teams’ assistant coaches and $3,741 for the 16 women’s teams’ assistant coaches. This category of spending makes up 7.7 percent of the overall department budget, while the head coaches’ salaries comprise 35.8 percent of the overall budget.

Team (game-day) operating expenses are the third category of the budget. Each year a head coach will outline the necessary funds they’ll need for their team’s operation during the next season. This may include equipment, new uniforms, and travel expenditures. Any major improvements, such as the resurfacing of the gym or the re-sodding that occurs annually, is budgeted in the school’s central fund, outside of the department. Once a coach has prepared a budget for the next year, he or she works with Director of Athletics Charles Katsiaficas to eliminate unnecessary expenditures and determine what will be funded the ensuing season.

According to Katsiaficas, the budgets are fairly predictable on a year-to-year basis, and it is therefore usually easy to settle on a fair budget. However, there are occasional “wish-list” requests that Katsiaficas has to decide on. Coaches propose an improvement for their program or field that they are “wishing” for, and it’s up to Katsiaficas to make a final decision. Certain times, the program will be able to support these items, such as the new baseball scoreboard above alumni field, but more often than not, they are denied.

For 2011, the football team accounted for $52,440 in expenditures, the highest in the department, while the women’s golf team accounted for $3,760, the least in the department. Breaking the funding down on a per-participant level, men’s golf was the highest at $1,435 per participant for the season, while women’s track and field combined with women’s cross country was the lowest at $302 per participant.

Although there are significant discrepancies in individual team expenditures, Katsiaficas explained that the distribution of funds is almost entirely need-based. For example, the football team, needing helmets, shoulder pads, and other equipment, will always receive more support than the track team, which may only need uniforms and shoes.

The availability of competition also factors into team expenditures. Again, the football team needs funds to travel because there is a lack of Division III football programs in the area. Other teams have more than enough local competition.

Once individual team needs are taken care of, Katsiaficas’s main concern is that each program is healthy and that no teams are neglected.

“The overriding thought process is governed by program equity and gender equity so that we’re treating each program fairly,” Katsiaficas said “At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”

Although Katsiaficas is the one who approves the team budgets, he is not especially concerned with the numbers.

“When we speak with the college [regarding the budget], we’re interested in providing a quality experience for all the student-athletes that fits in with the mission of the college.”

The fourth category is recruiting costs—by far the smallest portion of the P-P athletic department budget. In 2011, the department spent a total of $7,903 on recruiting, $4,335 for the men’s teams and $3,568 for the women’s teams. Unlike larger schools with more competitive athletic programs, Pomona and Pitzer don’t pay for official recruiting trips for prospective athletes. Once on campus, the potential future athletes are housed with existing students, and their meal expenditures are paid through the Admissions Office, the same as prospective non-athletes. The reported recruiting costs are mostly reimbursements for coaches that travel in the Southern California area to scout high school athletes.

The last category of the athletic department budget is non-allocated expenses. This includes everything that the department needs to function smoothly but that isn’t directly related to a team or coach. The athletic training room and trainers’ salaries are included in this budget, as are the staff salaries for the Sports Information Director and costs related to statistics-keeping and video production. Also, support for club and intramural sports falls under this area of the budget. In total, this category was budgeted $597,024 for 2011, 27 percent of the total athletic department expenditures.

Compared to the other eight SCIAC schools, P-P spends the sixth-most on Athletics per year. CMS, University of Redlands, California Lutheran University, University of La Verne, and Occidental College each report greater total expenses for 2011, while Whittier College, Chapman University, and Caltech report less.

Comparatively, P-P actually spends more on coaches’ salaries than the other SCIAC schools. A head coaching position is only considered a part-time job because of the brevity of each sport’s season. The best way to comparatively measure a coach’s salary is to look at its full-time equivalent, adjusting the salary as if it were the coach’s full-time position. By this measure, P-P ranks first in coaches’ salaries with an average of $80,930 per men’s team coach and $78,390 per women’s team coach.

However, comparing team operating expenses and recruiting expenses, P-P is significantly outspent by the other SCIAC teams. The highest spending school, CMS, spends more than twice as much on team operating expenses for every dollar P-P spends. On recruiting, the contrast is even more stark, as CMS spends more than five times as much as P-P.

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