Referendum Vote Could Determine Fate of Athletes
February 17, 2005 9:02 PM
The fate of athletics at SF State will once again be left up to students, who will vote in March to approve or deny a $35 fee increase supporting the program.
The referendum is the last resort to save the athletics program at SF State, according to Athletic Director Mike Simpson. All SF State students currently pay a $99 athletics fee.
“If this doesn’t pass, there are no athletics at SF State,” said Simpson. “We are not cutting things back and having a Mickey Mouse program.
“Either we get this or we have no program. We will be the only CSU without an athletics program.”
One dollar per semester of the proposed increase would be allocated to support the Intramural Recreation Program, which is administered through the kinesiology department.
There has not been an athletic fee increase since 1992. Last year’s referendum was voted down by 233 votes, with about 8,500 students voting.
“Since the vote was so close, (SF State) President (Robert) Corrigan formed a task force,” said Bridget Morris, 21, a former member of the women’s swim team and co-president of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. ”It was … the president’s recommendation to go for another referendum.”
Due to the loss of funding and the defeat of the proposal last March, the athletics department was forced to eliminate six sports: men’s and women’s swimming and tennis, men’s track and women’s volleyball.
“We were worried that we would be unable to keep the program alive,” said Simpson.
Since the Task Force on the Future of Athletics at San Francisco State University was formed, there has been a movement to keep the athletics program alive. During one of the two town hall meetings organized by the task force last year, nearly 40 supporters, ranging from alumni to grandparents, poured into the Nob Hill Room at the Seven Hills Conference Center.
“There was an overwhelming amount of support," said Simpson. "The Public Research Institute did a random survey at SF State which concluded that 91 percent (of students) were in support of keeping the athletics department open."
The task force concluded that SF State could not continue to compete in Division II athletics without further funding.
Since state money and general funding were not available, the task force came up with a few options: the possibility of corporate sponsorship and donations, internal funding, and support from the Associated Students. But because of the timing, those resources were not available, said Simpson.
“At this point the fee referendum is the only way to save the athletic program,” said Robbie Earle, coach of the women’s track and field team. “The university president will not spend any university money on the athletic program, so right now, the program has a $0 budget for next year.”
The department is currently gearing up to solicit support, and officials and students have been working with Associated Students and the campus radio station to gain support in order to help pass the referendum.
Horace Montgomery, leadership development coordinator for ASI, supports the athletics department but says funding should not come out of the students’ pockets.
“I am 100 percent in support of the social aspect that the athletics program provided in the CSU campus, but it concerns me greatly that the university and state government continues to tax students to have the ability to participate in a historically funded program that the campus used to provide,” said Montgomery.
Some athletes see the importance of paying the fee.
“It’s only $17," said Dana Ramirez, 18, nursing major and current SF State softball player. "If it doesn’t pass we will be the only CSU without an athletics program.”
Ramirez is one of many athletes who has received a Division II scholarship. Those students who have received scholarships, according to Morris, will either leave SF State and find other schools to attend, or be forced to continue on without an athletics department or a scholarship. There are about 240 student-athletes attending SF State.
“Compared to scholarships for Division I schools, Division II school students receive less scholarship money,” said Morris. “Not one athlete in our athletic department has received a full ride.”
“Student-athletes can contact schools and begin to seek transfer options," said Earle. "Transferring universities and continuing to play a sport can sometimes be a difficult and lengthy process, but when a university drops athletics or a sport, the process is sped up."
In a strategy meeting held by Simpson last week, a group of faculty and student-athletes discussed questions that may be addressed by students.
“What are we going to say to those students who don’t have an interest in athletics? Why should they vote for this fee?” Simpson said at the meeting.
“When you think of the word college, what do you think of?" said Morris. "Sorority, fraternity, and athletics. Everyone belongs to a family, and this is my family. I belong to athletics.”
“You lose a piece of the college experience (without athletics),” added Mitch Wasik, head athletic trainer.
“I hope students decide to accept a small increase to their tuition by voting ‘yes’ on the referendum,” said Earle. “Our student-athletes are learning life lessons and will represent the integrity of San Francisco State University in their communities. That’s a positive reflection of our university.”
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