The Death Of Some Collegiate Programs Prompts Focus On Sustainable Funding

With the world shutting down, we’re reaching into our archives and pulling some of our favorite stories from the SwimSwam print edition to share online. If you’d like to read more of this kind of story, you can subscribe to get a print (and digital) version of SwimSwam Magazine here. This story was originally published in the 2017 College Preview edition of SwimSwam Magazine.

With contributions from Joel Shinofield, CSCAA Executive Director.

Collegiate swim programs across the country are dying. In the past six months alone, North Dakota, Buffalo, Quincy University, and Clemson have each announced that it will cut one or more aquatics programs from its varsity offerings, and Wright State tried to do the same before a last-minute $80,000 fundraiser from the national swimming community saved it — at least for a year.

But emergency fundraising is not a sustainable model to save swimming. These programs can’t rely on the whole country to pitch in to save every program that colleges try to cut in the increasingly expensive world of collegiate sports.

One model used in higher education to finance academic and social programs on college campuses are endowments, in which a certain amount of money is collected and invested, and the annual investment return is used to fund a specific program. Campuses also use annual fundraising dollars to reliably fund their operations, scholarships, and programs.

Athletics is no different, as teams can — and should — employ a variety of strategies to draw on support from alumni, parents, and the community.

For some programs, an endowment may be the best option for funding, while for others it’s the formation of an external foundation that supports the program over decades. For many teams, however, it may be more realistic to start with a sustained and vibrant annual giving program to support the program while directing some of those dollars to an endowment.

On some campuses, scholarship endowments can be started with as little as $20,000, while on others the threshold is $500,000 or more. Some programs collect this money in the form of direct donations from alumni and supporters, and others contribute proceeds from camps and lessons to endowments and restricted funds for their teams.

The latter model allows programs to begin the endowment process while attracting needed dollars for current operations or scholarships while building a so-called giving tradition, which can attract a sustainable and predictable flow of resources into the program over time, with athletes who are the beneficiaries of one generation turning into the benefactors of the next.

This time provides those alumni and others the opportunity to plan larger gifts, such as including the program in their estate plans or as beneficiaries of life-insurance policies, to transfer significant wealth to the program.

The University of Texas, one of the most successful programs in the history of college swimming, has in the past six months launched an endowment for its coaches’ salaries, which can eliminate a major hurdle for athletics directors of the future when they’re making budget decisions. But other smaller programs — Cleveland State is the shining-star example — can ensure a program moves from first in line to be cut to one of the school’s most valuable athletics assets.

Regardless of what method a program chooses, fundraising is critical in protecting the long-term future of individual teams, the sport, and opportunities for future swimmers and divers. Without a strategy to build relationships and develop a tradition of giving, a program can’t create opportunities for supporters to make the major gifts required to fully fund an endowment. Alumni and coaches need to engage with the decision-makers on campus and support their program annually.

Below are samples assembled by Joel Shinofield and Greg Earhart of the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America of what a cross-section of college swimming budgets looks like. While the budgets vary among schools, this is a representative look at what a school within each range looks like. Power Five indicates a school in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, or SEC. FCS is a school whose football program plays in the second tier of Division I.

Men’s & Women’s Combined Budgets

Illustrative samples; every program is unique. For combined-gender programs.

Power 5 FCS Division II Division III
Staffing
Head Coach $ 122,000 $ 94,300 $ 49,500 $ 38,500
Diving Coach $ 56,000 $ 44,000 $ 18,000 $ 9,000
Associate Head Coach $ 63,400
Assistant Coach $ 51,700 $ 36,000 $ 30,500 $ 16,000
Assistant Coach $ 51,700 $ 24,000
Assistant Coach $ 38,000
University Benefits $ 114,840 $ 59,490 $ 29,400 $ 19,050
Total Staffing
$ 497,640 $ 257,790 $ 127,400 $ 82,550
Administrative Expenses
Communications $ 6,800 $ 4,200
Services $ 3,600 $ 2,400 $ 1,200 $ 600
Internal Billing $ 42,000 $ 16,400
Total Administration
$ 52,400 $ 23,046 $ 1,200 $ 600
Scholarships
Grants-in-Aid $ 690,000 $ 240,000 $ 117,000 $ –
Cost of Attendance $ 124,200 $ – $ –
Total Scholarship
$ 814,200 $ 240,000 $ 117,000 $ –
Travel
Team – Airfare $ 50,400 $ 7,200
Team – Bus $ 16,000 $ 12,000 $ 9,000 $ 9,000
Team – Hotel $ 29,160 $ 24,000 $ 16,560 $ 10,925
Admin $ 7,200 $ 2,000 $ 1,000 $ 1,000
Total Travel
$ 102,760 $ 45,200 $ 26,560 $ 20,925
Equipment and Operating Expenses
Equipment $ 48,000 $ 12,000 $ 9,600 $ 4,800
Capital Expenses $ 7,400 $ 3,000 $ 2,000 $ 100
Game Day Expenses $ 18,000 $ 5,000
Total Operating
$ 73,400 $ 20,000 $ 11,600 $ 4,900
Recruiting
Campus Visits $ 18,000 $ 6,000 $ 2,000 $ –
Off Campus $ 14,000 $ 1,000 $ 1,000 $ 1,000
Total Recruiting
$ 32,000 $ 7,000 $ 3,000 $ 1,000
Total Estimate
$ 1,572,400 $ 593,036 $ 286,760 $ 109,975
Actual Budget Ranges
High $ 5,364,000 $ 2,790,000 $ 1,404,000 $ 606,100
Low $ 1,351,000 $ 152,800 $ 56,900 $ 8,400
Mean $ 2,687,000 $ 908,206 $ 443,800 $ 157,700

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Sharon
2 years ago

Clemson cut swim in 2010. When did you write this?

Hook ‘em
2 years ago

Isn’t Joel with USA swimming now?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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