Profitability and potential. Those are the critical concepts when it comes to Fairmont State University athletics.

Moving forward, the key is maximizing each. Statistics provided to the Equity in Athletics Data Analysis show that for the 2010-11 academic year, FSU made a profit of $189,123 from its sports programs — revenue of $3,077,611 and expenses of $2,888,488.

That, however, is not the total picture.

For the sports offered at Fairmont State, NCAA Division II allows a maximum total of 141.1 scholarships (that figure includes scholarships for track and field that are included with cross country. Track and field is not offered at FSU).

Fairmont State provides 67.04 scholarships. That is a difference of approximately 74 scholarships that Fairmont State is allowed to provide but currently does not.

If you combine the profit from the operation revenues of $189,123 and the theoretical $2,603,722 brought in from the athletes paying full tuition who are not on athletic scholarships, FSU as a whole is profiting by more than $2.8 million.

Fairmont State’s leadership, to its credit, acknowledges the value of athletics.

“We as an institution value our athletic programs because they are part of this university,” said Dr. Maria Rose, Fairmont State’s interim president. “They are part of the whole picture of what makes a student decide if they want to study here or not.”

FSU athletic director Rusty Elliott, a Marion County native and Fairmont State graduate, knows how the school grew and its reputation was enhanced nationally as legendary coaches Deacon Duvall and Joe Retton built their football and basketball programs during the 1960s.

In a memorable 1967-68 season, FSU’s football team defeated Eastern Washington, 28-21 in the NAIA championship game at old Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, and the men’s basketball team dropped a well played 51-48 decision to Central State of Ohio in the NAIA tournament title game in Kansas City.

FSU is intent on making the most from the value of athletics. Rose said the university has commissioned a study to look at the athletic department and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.

We applaud the Fairmont State Board of Governors for making the decision to get an independent professional analysis of the athletic potential and its return on investment for the entire university community.

Fairmont State currently ranks ninth in terms of athletic budgets among West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools. Improving this standing will require strong support — from private sources as well as the university itself.

It will be a challenge.

The Pierpont Community & Technical College Board of Governors is currently accepting public comment on the administration’s plans to phase out over five years the athletic fee Pierpont students currently pay to FSU. Pierpont students pay an athletic fee of $81 per year. Last school year, the fee generated about $327,500, which Pierpont plans to divert to other operating budget needs at the community college.

Unfortunately, if enacted this will create a “segregation” of sorts among the student body on the main campus on the hill.

For the first time, Pierpont students will not have the same access to sporting events and programs that FSU students are able to enjoy since they would no longer be paying the athletic fee. This could affect a host of other activities that students and alumni take for granted.

Fortunately, Fairmont State won the battle in Charleston for fair and equitable funding, and its state budget allocation has now been increased by $5 million added to its base funding that continues year after year.

That money was intended to meet academic and athletic needs as well as cover some of the additional costs that the university would have to absorb as a result of the separation.

University funds can only go so far. Fundraising is an essential job of the athletic department.

The Fairmont State Athletic Association exists to raise money for the athletic program. Everyone recognizes the need for private fundraising. Unfortunately, the position of executive director, whose primary purpose was fundraising, was eliminated by the FSU administration this fiscal year.

Which begs the question: “How can the administration expect Fairmont State Athletics to continue to provide a profitable return on investment and contribute to enrollment growth if the Board of Governors reduces the resources they need to be successful?”

Consider that FSU currently has more than $10 million in operating reserves, which is equivalent to about 17 percent of its annual general budget less what is covered by state appropriations, of which $3.1 million was placed in the reserve account at the end of the last fiscal year June 30, 2011.

Also, that it has about $7 million in its auxiliary reserves (housing, meals, bookstore, etc. ...), which is equivalent to more than one year’s operating costs in reserve, of which $1.2 million was placed in the reserve account at the end of the last fiscal year as well.

In addition, during Joe Manchin’s last year as governor he directed more than $18 million in capital building projects and renovations to the Fairmont State campus so that the university would not have to dip into reserves or pass the costs for building improvements on to the students in the form of additional capital fees.

Finally, with the elimination of the OPEB liability just this week when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed the bill into law, that removed a cloud hanging over the heads and budgets of virtually every state agency including Fairmont State from having to pay millions of dollars in future benefit costs.

There really is no excuse for not giving FSU athletics their fair share of available financial resources.

The Fighting Falcons can be a force within the WVIAC and on a national level if the powers that be are willing to give them a fighting chance. It can still be done from the conference. West Liberty is currently the top-ranked men’s basketball team in NCAA Division II. Shepherd has proven that it is a prominent player in D2 football as well.

It’s all about maximizing potential, and we’re eager to see FSU take the steps to do just that.

Recommended for you