Severe decline in sports donations jeopardizes programs

May 3, 2017 — by Ashley Feng

Walking through campus, visitors see the brightly colored football field, well-maintained baseball and softball fields and shiny barbells in a weight room that looks brand new.

The school appears to be flush with money to support athletics, but athletics director Tim Lugo said the department is having financial struggles.  This is because of an alarming lack of sports donations from parents this year that have put the program $60,000 in the red, perhaps jeopardizing some sports teams for next year.

He said that if cuts are needed to make up for the deficit, they would be equitable and across the board.

Among the first to be cut would be assistant coaches and transportation. Another possibility would be to schedule fewer preseason games or to play more games at home, which may affect sports that have conflicting practice schedules and use the same facilities.

The yearly total sports budget is roughly $275,000, a round number that is rarely met or exceeded in yearly spending. The athletics department asks for a $250 donation from parents when they sign their children up for each sport.

Even though athletics does not receive funding from the district other than for stipends to pay head coaches, the department is still legally prohibited from marketing for donations or charging students for playing a sport.

Lugo said that although participation in sports is slightly down this year, the real issue has to do with the sports registration process, which can now be done online.

“One of the reasons for the drop I noticed is that students are signing themselves up for sports,” he said. “When it comes time to pay at the end of registration, they don’t have access to their parents’ credit cards, so we never see those donations.”

So far, the drop in donations has not led to cuts, but at this rate, the department will have to eventually reduce expenses that pay for necessities such as equipment and tournaments.

“That burden will now fall on the athletes and coaches to spend time fundraising to do the same things they have always done and provide our athletes the same experience they have always received,” Lugo said.

Although the school cannot mandate parental donations, Lugo said that the Sports Boosters is trying to publicize the problem athletics is having and reach out to families to help close the deficit. The hope is that all parents will get the word and begin paying the $250 when they sign their children up for a sport.

“The only way to prevent this is to continue to get the word out that those donations cover our entire budget for sports,” Lugo said. “If we have to eliminate teams, cut back on transportation, play less games to reduce our referee costs or hire fewer assistant coaches, no one will be happy. But if we don’t have the money to pay for these things — something has to give.”