Level II varsity teams face dramatic funding cuts in 2010-11

With a proposed 67 per cent funding cut for the upcoming year, McGill Athletics’ Level II teams will face some drastic changes in the near future.

Funding for McGill varsity teams is based on a three-level tiered system. The 2010-11 McGill Athletics and Recreation budget proposal, released last week, would cut Level II funding by $147,871, making the total amount $73,163, compared to $221,034 last year.

Level I teams, which include football, hockey, basketball, soccer, swimming and women’s volleyball, receive a total of over $850,000 of financial support and are set to receive an additional $15,801 in the proposed budget. The Level II teams are cross country, track, rugby, badminton, rowing and men’s volleyball. The budget for Level III teams, also known as intercollegiate clubs, which consists of all other athletic teams, is set to double next year to $60,000.

Tom Fabian, the president of the Varsity Council and a member of the volleyball team expressed concern about what these funding cuts would mean for the Level II teams.

“Take the volleyball team, for example,” he said. “Our operating budget is about what’s left for all the Level II teams next year. So it would be impossible for us to be in our league, let alone go to two tournaments each year.”

Drew Love, director of athletics at McGill, explained that McGill’s sports model is based on prioritizing funding for Level I teams in order to help them be successful.

“We have always taken the approach that we fund our Level I sports in order to give them the opportunity to be competitive, and depending on how much funding we have available after we do that, we would then find a way to divide the remaining money up among the Level II teams,” he said.

Love added that this did not necessarily mean that these Level II teams would be forced to drop down to Level III.

“The pot of money for Level II teams is decreasing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those teams won’t exist,” he said. “But it means that some of them will be competing with less support from the Athletics department than they’ve had the last few years.”

In addition to the $125,000 Athletics will lose due to the Overhead Recovery Fee – a new charge that redirects a percentage of Athletics revenues to the central administration – the proposed budget includes significant cuts in contributions to Athletics from Student Life and Learning. Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson explained that these are part of cuts made across the board in his departments due to the university’s difficult financial situation.

“The budget situation in the university is very serious. We do not have the money to do what we want to do … so it’s a matter of weighing priorities,” Mendelson said. “In the end we had to make the choice that the university cannot contribute to athletics to the same extent it has in the past.”

While Fabian said he understood the difficult situation facing Athletics, he questioned whether many of these Level II teams would be able to survive.

“I respect what they’re doing, but for many teams, if their funds are being cut, it’s a nice way of saying your program is cut,” he said. “Many teams can’t operate without it.”

Both Fabian and SSMU President Ivan Neilson expressed particular concern with the loss of a $65,000 contribution towards playoff expenses from Student Life and Learning.

“Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with some of the money that’s being pulled out, especially for playoff expenses,” Neilson said. “It’s important that McGill show a commitment to Athletics. Obviously we understand that the university is in a very difficult financial position … but it’s unfortunate that so many of the cuts will affect students so directly.”

Love, however, was confident that this loss of financial support would not prevent qualifying McGill teams from attending important playoff competitions.

“We’re going to have to find funds from other parts of the budget in order to support the playoff funding,” he said. “Certainly we wouldn’t ask a team that was heading off to a provincial or national championship to have to fund their own way to that championship.”

As for decisions regarding possible changes in the level classification of teams, Love said no decisions will xbe made until teams’ seasons are complete, and will be based on various criteria.

“The decision would be made by the administration,” he said, “and there are a number of issues that are looked at, including popularity, feeder systems, interest within both the McGill and the Montreal communities, success, and competitiveness.”

Fabian, for his part, said he hopes that any decision-making process should be made clear to all athletes.

“This needs to be done based on the right criteria, and it needs to be transparent,” he said. “Right now we don’t want to worry anyone. At the end of the season, everyone will know what’s happening. Now it’s just the waiting game.”

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