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Montana St. athletics eyes cash shortfall

Travel, scholarship, insurance costs rising for university

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Montana State University’s athletic department is facing a budget crunch that has it raising ticket prices, asking for higher donations from boosters and asking the school for another $1.1 million to buy new equipment, hire trainers and stabilize the department’s budget.

Athletic Director Peter Fields said even though athletics is bringing in more money than ever, in part because of an expansion of the football stadium, other costs such as travel, medical insurance and scholarships have risen rapidly.

In response, the department is raising 2013 season ticket prices by $30, or $5 per game, and the cost of memberships in the Bobcat Club, the booster club for athletics, is increasing by 20 percent.

The university contributed $6.84 million in direct support to athletics in the 2012 fiscal year, the largest part of the department’s $22.5 million budget, and a $500,000 increase from 2009.

Ticket sales increased to $2.4 million in 2012 with the stadium expansion, but some of that $700,000 increase is being used to repay a $4 million loan that helped pay for the expansion. Payments started at $379,000 last year and are decreasing each year.

Fields said his department wants to replace equipment that’s wearing out, buy new exercise machines and replace outdated computers in the academic center.

They also want to double the staff of athletic trainers to eight.