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Board pushes back University of Idaho’s request to put more institutional funds toward athletics

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho wants more of its state funding to go to athletics to cover a projected deficit, and the State Board of Education wants more details before it grants UI’s request.

The State Board on Wednesday pushed back a decision on UI’s request for a waiver that would allow the school to use an additional $1 million in institutional funds annually over the next four years for athletics. Currently, the allotment of state funds that can go from the institution to the athletic department is capped at $949,500 per year.

UI isn’t asking the State Board for more state funds, just more of its current total that can go toward athletics.

In a document posted to the State Board website, UI cited a projected athletic department deficit of $1,093,000 for the 2017 fiscal year. But Brian Foisy, the school’s vice president of finance, said in a short presentation to the board that the shortfall is around $900,000.

The deficit partly stems from the school’s move to the Football Championship Subdivision and Big Sky Conference next fall.

The UI athletic department expects to see a decline of $350,000 in donations. Many prominent boosters have pulled back support after UI announced it would become the first school to drop from the higher-level Football Bowl Subdivision to the FCS.

The largest portion of the deficit, though, is from a dip in guaranteed-game payouts. Idaho said it took home $525,000 less in 2016 by playing at Washington and Washington State than the year before when it collected $2.1 million from Auburn and USC.

A drop in revenue from student fees because of flagging enrollment represents another $315,000, Foisy said.

“I want to be quick to point out this (request) really has nothing to do with the FCS/FBS football decision,” Foisy said at the start of his comments to the State Board.

But later, when addressing the dip in fundraising, he said, “I suppose in part a small portion of that might be connected to donors who quite frankly aren’t happy with the decision.”

The State Board asked UI to present a plan on how it will overcome the deficit before it votes on UI’s request.

In an unrelated measure, the State Board approved Idaho’s request to move forward with the planning and design phase of a $30 million on-campus arena. The project requires $20 million in private gifts, with the rest of the costs covered by facility fees ($5 million), bond proceeds ($3 million) and institutional funds ($2 million).

UI athletic director Rob Spear said on Wednesday the school has reached $16 million in fundraising for the 4,700-seat arena that will sit adjacent to the Kibbie Dome.


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