The Times West Virginian

Sports

April 1, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN- Are governor, Legislature aware of WVU mess?

MORGANTOWN — Has Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin seen fit to look into what seems to be the worst turmoil athletically in many, many years at West Virginia University?

I don’t know. I’m just asking.

Has anyone in the West Virginia Legislature looked into that mess?

I don’t know. I’m just asking.

WVU officials revealed that the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics finished in $13 million of red ink for fiscal 2012, and that word came nearly eight months after June 30, 2012.

For at least most of my 67 years covering the university’s sports beat, that information was available no later than Aug. 31.

To my knowledge, that $13 million debt for athletics in one year is the greatest ever in the athletic department’s history.

The powers-that-be obviously have been spending for athletics more millions than ever before. I happen to believe that it is a considerable cause for concern.

The WVU Board of Governors has admitted, through chairman Drew Payne, that the members voted long ago to allow athletic director Oliver Luck, with WVU President James Clements’ approved, to spend whatever they needed for what the two considered best for the university.

So one has to assume that the board of governors really isn’t worried about this season’s monetary matter.

There is a growing number of longtime, loyal season ticket buyers that admittedly no longer can afford to buy tickets for football and men’s basketball games.

Ticket prices have soared out of control along with required gifts to the Mountaineer Athletic Club for the right to purchase tickets.

Couldn’t everyone interested have expected that eventually to happen after college presidents and athletic directors allowed coaching salaries to get out of control?

In my opinion, the continuing athletic financial costs at WVU are the worst since 1981 when the department, like now, was dripping in red ink. The late Dick Martin was on his way out then.

Then, as now, WVU had budget problems, and the spending was greater than the revenue. But the bottom line wasn’t anywhere near what it is today.

You might say it was more a matter of thousands — not millions.

Martin was blaming men’s basketball head coach Gale Catlett, saying low December game revenue was a major factor in the deficit. But it was no more then than it is now, percentage-wise, during that season’s early month.

What’s more, Martin’s associate in charge of finances confirmed he was “forced” to include a hoped-for $135,000 fee from a television appearance in the current athletic budget that never materialized.

But Martin resigned eventually, and the late Fred Schaus was named A.D. And he got the department out of debt and in the black, and left his successor with a cushioned result.

The governor and Legislature helped, too. Both showed enough interest then to look into that mess.

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