Budget Cuts Threaten To Eliminate IUP Sports Broadcasts
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) encompasses 14 universities and nearly 117,000 students, but it now counts far fewer sports productions than just a year ago. At Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), David Lind, executive producer of WIUP-TV, has spent the past decade executive-producing student-run productions of the Division 2 school’s football and basketball games; for the past two years, he has recounted his experiences during football season for SVG. This year, however, budget cuts are threatening to cut Lind’s broadcast season down to just three games.
“Anything can happen at smaller schools, where things can be eliminated at the snap of a finger,” he explains. “We are in dire straits here.”
The End of the Stimulus
As a state-owned school, IUP is subsidized by the Pennsylvania state government, but, over the past few years, those subsidies have not increased to keep pace with inflation and the growing cost of production.
“Also, the [federal] stimulus money runs out this year,” Lind adds, “which makes it even worse for universities next year.”
Compounding the economic situation is the recent resignation of IUP’s president, who received a vote of no confidence from the faculty union.
“In past years, I have had great collaboration with administrative offices, but their budgets have been cut, and they no longer can support sports productions, which average about $15,000 a year for the entire football and basketball season,” Lind says. “That really is a drop in the bucket, but, right now, we don’t have it.”
Funding for Four
Through fundraising, Lind has been able to secure about $5,000, which will fund the first three or four football games of the season.
“Unfortunately, our second and third games are long-distance road games that will eat that budget up because of hotel and meal charges for the crew,” he points out. “In larger schools, sports-production budgets come out of the athletic office. Our athletics department is ranked 12th in operational funding out of the 14 schools in the PSSHE system, so they cannot contribute any money to sports productions.”
To keep the program going, Lind has begun looking for sponsors to underwrite the cost of the productions. When he first started producing games in 2000, the games were sponsored by 14 area businesses, including local pizza shops. However, 10 years ago, his operational budget was one-third what it is now, and finding time in a basketball broadcast to plug 42 sponsor companies is not feasible.
“It took more time to get the commercials inserted into the game than we had to spend on preproduction,” Lind says. “I don’t want to go back to that model.”
In addition, finding 42 companies in the town of Indiana, PA, to sponsor a student broadcast is easier said than done.
“All the area businesses and corporations that are here are already tapped out giving to not only IUP but the Red Cross and other social-service agencies,” Lind explains. “You can’t really ask them for a great deal of money that they don’t have, so I’ve been trying either regional or national sponsorships.”
Finding a national sponsor may be a bit more doable after last year’s sports success at IUP. The school’s basketball team made it to the Division II national championship game last year, and ESPN featured the Crimson Hawks three times on SportsCenter’s top-10 plays of the week. IUP also had a player drafted in the late rounds of the NFL draft, and Monday Night Football has called to ask for highlights of that player to be used in a broadcast this season.
“I understand the economic situation of the university,” Lind says. “It’s just a shame that, coming off such a great season of exposure for the school in basketball and football, we have to face the economic situation of possibly losing all of our sports productions.”
He is well aware that IUP is not the only school in dire straits these days, and he appreciates that there is no animosity between the university and his program.
“The university likes what we do; there’s just no money left to do it,” he says. “This is a student-centered activity, and I would really like to keep it going. Ten thousand dollars would get us the rest of the way.”
Lind can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].