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Referendum to Raise Student Fees Could Decide Fate of CSUN Athletics

October 14, 1994|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Bob Rowell, who has experience in this sort of thing, sends his regards to Cal State Northridge. Maybe he should send a rabbit's foot instead.

Rowell, an assistant athletic director at rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, recently weathered a campus election in which funding was the political football. Students approved a substantial fee increase to support athletics.

Northridge on Tuesday and Wednesday is conducting a similar election that could chart the school's athletic course well into the next century.

"I hope it passes," Rowell said. "It sure helped us."

Northridge students will be asked to vote on a referendum that, if passed, would increase fees from $4 to $49 per semester or $98 annually. If the proposition fails, Northridge, after five seasons in NCAA Division I, might be forced to eliminates several men's programs and revert to Division II.

The Northridge athletic department anticipates the loss in 1995-96 of roughly $700,000 from a budget that this year stands at $3.6 million. The football team faces elimination and scholarships will be lost in many sports.

The referendum would leave Northridge students with an annual registration fee of roughly $2,014, which would rank third on the 1994-95 list of the 20 schools in the Cal State University system. Cal State San Marcos, the newest school in the chain, is the least expensive at $1,700.

Yet comparing athletic budgets and sources of revenue can be a tricky proposition. Dollars and cents at one campus are apples and oranges at another. Schools might share CSU membership, but each has a different way of paying for sports programs.

"One thing that you don't have a measure of is that Northridge is one of the newer institutions (in Division I)," said Bob Hiegert, Northridge's athletic director. "San Diego State, Fresno and others have played at that level for some time and have facilities and support groups in place.

"We're playing catch-up."

The catch for students, of course, is the price tag. CSU students subsidize athletics through membership fees paid to the Associated Students or a program called Instructionally Related Activities, which funds dozens of extracurricular programs from student registration fees.

Dollar totals can vary significantly in each category. Students at three CSU schools pay $10 annually to IRA; the fee at another is $200. Athletic programs often receive a percentage of the pie from each account.

CSU schools augment their athletic budgets through a variety of formulas.

For example:

* CS Northridge ($3.6 million budget): Northridge has the sixth-highest registration total in the system at $1,916 annually, which includes $96 in combined IRA ($30) and Associated Students ($66) fees.

The average charged to CSU students in 1994-95 is $42 in IRA and $49 from Associated Students, or $91 combined.

If the referendum passes, combined AS and IRA fees at Northridge will increase from $96 to $194 per student. Admission to athletics events would remain free to students.

The current annual cut for Northridge athletics is $8 per student from AS and $17 from IRA.

* Cal Poly SLO ($4 million budget): The Mustangs are in the third of a four-year plan in which IRA fees are being raised incrementally to fund sports. This year the IRA fee has been raised to $135, the second-highest total in the CSU. The total Associated Students charge annually is $50 per student for a total of $185, also the second-highest in the system.

Each quarter, the AS chips in $4 and IRA adds $43 per student to athletics. There is no admission charge at athletic events for students.

* Fresno State ($10.8 million budget): Perhaps the most-successful program in the CSU, Bulldog athletics have received no money this year from the Associated Students or IRA coffers. Students pay $52 in combined IRA and AS fees annually.

The Associated Students stopped funding athletics in 1981. Students nonetheless pay for athletics through other means. At Fresno, though, it's more of a user-fee process.

Students must purchase a $90 season pass for the 1994-95 men's basketball season. Student tickets to individual games in basketball are unavailable.

Student tickets for this week's home football game against Wyoming are $9.

* San Diego State ($9.75 million): The second-most prominent athletic program in the CSU receives no money from the Associated Students.

The Aztec athletic department gets $17 annually per student in IRA fees. Students pay $60 in combined IRA and AS fees and are admitted free to athletic events.

* Long Beach State ($4.2 million): Last spring, Long Beach students passed a referendum increasing IRA charges from $25 annually to $50. It takes effect in 1995-96 and will raise combined IRA and AS fees to $84 annually.

Athletics received $15 per student in IRA fees this year and nothing from AS fees. Admission for students to athletic events is free.

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