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Eastern Washington University Basketball
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Eastern Washington hires outside firm to review athletic department’s budget problems

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 16, 2020

Roos Field, the football venue of Eastern Washington University Eagles, shown in 2017. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW  (JESSE TINSLEY)
Roos Field, the football venue of Eastern Washington University Eagles, shown in 2017. Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (JESSE TINSLEY)

Eastern Washington has hired an outside consultant to take a deep scope at the athletic department’s well-documented financial woes in an effort to develop solutions.

The PICTOR Group, based in Reno, Nevada, will conduct a monthslong budget analysis in a process that “will include a review of all relevant documents, on-site visits, and interviews with internal and external stakeholders – including faculty and student groups,” according to an EWU release.

PICTOR will evaluate all Eastern athletics operations and their competitive standing, according to EWU, which announced the hire earlier last week.

The EWU Board of Trustees, which sought out the firm, expects to receive PICTOR’s final analysis and report in February.

EWU paid $38,000 for the service.

EWU athletic director Lynn Hickey was not made available for comment.

“The goal is to have a thorough feasibility assessment of all aspects of the department, looking at strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities,” EWU spokesman Dave Meany told The Spokesman-Review in an email. “The findings will determine the next steps.”

EWU athletics was mired in a deficit of more than $5 million before the coronavirus, which has since led to the Cheney school to recently cut 30% of operating costs from each of its 14 sports.

Coaches and administrators have taken cuts to their salaries in wake of the pandemic.

In February, a group of EWU faculty members voiced its concerns to the Board of Trustees and then-president Mary Cullinan regarding the school’s spending on athletics – roughly $12 million to $14 million a year – that it believed would be better spent in academia, which was also battling major budget shortfalls.

Earlier this year, David Syphers, a physics professor and the treasurer of EWU’s faculty senate, represented a group that requested that school pursue an independent review of the athletic department’s spending and presented proposals.

Among the proposals in the four-person faculty members’ report – a report that wasn’t commissioned by EWU – was that Eastern discontinue athletics or make the cost-saving move of dropping down to NCAA Division II, NCAA III or NAIA.

Cullinan, who received a vote of no confidence from EWU faculty in June, stepped down last month. Dave May, EWU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, is now the school’s interim president.

The PICTOR Group has “expertise in comprehensive programmatic review and assessment for athletics programs, conferences or national sports organizations,” according to EWU, and has offered reviews on dozens of NCAA athletic departments.

PICTOR released a comprehensive 27-page report of the College of William & Mary University – a small Division I school like EWU with a Football Championship Subdivision Football program – in May 2019, examining everything from finances, academic success, brand recognition, facility to accomplished alumni.

Earlier this month – 15 months after the PICTOR report was released – William & Mary announced it will cut seven nonrevenue sports due to coronavirus-induced budget issues.

PICTOR, which has been in business for six years, has also conducted reviews of Memphis University women’s basketball team and Lehigh women’s field hockey team after allegations of poor culture and mistreatment of players surfaced, according to reports.

The University of Texas at San Antonio, where Hickey was previously an athletic director before stepping down in 2017, used PICTOR in 2018 as part of its “Roadrunner Game Plan – a strategy to achieve excellence.”

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