Eastern Michigan University has come under fire in recent weeks for its controversial plan to cut four sports, including its 34-time Mid-American Conference champion men’s swim team.
School officials say that cutting tennis, wrestling, softball and men’s swimming will save the school $2.4 million annually – a necessary cut due to budget restrictions – but EMU Accounting Professor Howard Bunsis says that the school miscalculated.
Bunsis, who in 2016 conducted and presented an independent analysis of the California State University system’s finances, told Michigan Radio that amongst other things, EMU failed to take into the account the tuition revenue it would lose due to affected athletes transferring out of the school.
“The majority of the student-athletes that participate in these four sports pay their own way to go to school at Eastern Michigan,” Bunsis said, “and that revenue is going away.”
Additionally, Bunsis said the school admitted to overestimating the cost of the wrestling program by $279,000. The school also did not take into account the loss of money that the NCAA contributes for scholarships. With these errors corrected, Bunsis found that the school will actually lose $61,000 by cutting the four programs.
His suggestion for saving money on athletics? Transition the football program from Division 1 to Division 2.
The University responded to the Bunsis report, stating:
The University stands by its long-term analysis relative to the future expense reductions related to the elimination of four sports.
It’s important to note that the cited report works from an NCAA form summarizing previous year expenses and costs, while the University’s estimates focus on projected budgets in the coming years. The athletic director has made it clear that such savings will not immediately be realized this next year but in the years to come.
In addition, the cited report fails to fully incorporate several key items, most notably the institutional aid (vs. athletic scholarships) received by student-athletes, which totals nearly $626,000 annually. It also likely overestimates how many athletes will leave the University.
And, as the athletic director has stated publicly before, this decision also took into account future and obvious costs required for new facilities and equipment, neither of which were factored into the cited report’s numerical analysis.
According to the Michigan Radio article, Bunsis claims that “EMU spends millions more on the football program than it gets in revenue, and it simply can’t afford to compete on coaching salaries with more successful Division 1 programs like the University of Michigan.” That is supported by publicly-available information that the school’s general funds support approximately 80% of the athletics budget.
Bunsis is planning to release his own analysis within a few weeks of how much money the school could save if it transitioned the football program.