Washington athletics to trim 2004-05 spending

Updated: May 22, 2004, 3:37 PM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- The University of Washington athletic department is cutting its budget, in part due to the cost of defending itself against a lawsuit brought by former football coach Rick Neuheisel.

Interim athletic director Dick Thompson has asked sports programs to trim spending by 2 percent for the 2004-05 school year, while the department is also cutting administrative and facilities spending by 5 percent. The football program, which provides nearly three-quarters of the department's revenue, is not subject to the cuts.

"We had an $800,000 problem to solve," Thompson told The Seattle Times.

That figure is close to what UW projects as the overall cost of a legal defense against Neuheisel's wrongful termination suit. Neuheisel was fired last summer for lying and being involved in NCAA basketball pools.

Paul King, associate athletic director for business and finance, estimated the department's budget at $39.5 million for 2004-05, with $300,000 coming from a reserve account. Most of the $500,000 budgeted for legal expenses from 2003-05 has gone toward the Neuheisel case, he said, while a smaller portion has gone toward legal expenses related to softball team doctor William Scheyer. Scheyer's license was suspended for allegedly distributing drugs to players inappropriately.

Other factors contributing to the shortfall include quirks in the NCAA football calendar: In 2002 and 2003, the Huskies had seven home games -- huge moneymakers for the department. This season, the Huskies will have only six.

"There's a measure of disappointment that it was through no fault of our own," said men's soccer coach Dean Wurzberger, one of many coaches asked to cut spending. "We hear about the dire straits for the athletic department for the stated reasons, and we say, 'Geez, tell us something that's uplifting.'"

Wurzberger said he fulfilled his 2 percent cut by eliminating half of a manager's position, the role of which is to handle functions such as field setup.

Thompson said the bulk of defense funds related to a lawsuit by ex-softball coach Teresa Wilson, who lost her job in the Scheyer controversy, will be borne by the university through the Office of Risk Management.

The cuts may be felt more deeply because about two years ago a thorough budget review of the athletic department had already prompted budget trimming.

"We were able to reduce our budget by quite a bit two years ago," said Chip Lydum, assistant athletic director for facilities and events.

Lydum usually oversees one large equipment purchase annually -- a sweeper two years ago, a forklift in 2003-04 -- but will forgo that as part of his 5 percent cut. Husky Stadium, which normally undergoes a full scrape-and-paint freshening in the spring and summer, will have only spot painting this year."

Some of the cuts in nonrevenue sports hit hard because most run lean and don't present obvious opportunities for cost-saving. Several were reluctant to cut travel because it was important for strengthening schedules in sports in which postseason selection may depend on it.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press