Dan Hayes and Clayton Coleman, Staff Writers
Due to the consolidation, Armstrong State University no longer has an athletics program. Yet, students continue to pay a fee for a program that no longer exists. Rough estimates project that the university will collect over two million dollars in athletic fees for the current academic year.
The final year of Armstrong’s Athletic program operated on a budget of $3.6 million, of which $2.75 million was generated from student athletic fees. Over half of last year’s budget was spent on scholarships and coaches’ salaries. The remaining portion paid for travel, operating expenses, and facilities.
How does the University plan to spend the money collected this year? According to James Shore, Interim VP for Business and Finance, the athletic fees collected for the 2017-2018 academic year are funding remaining scholarships, coaches still looking for employment, transportation to a select few and access to all Georgia Southern athletic events, and enhancements to the Recreation and Club sports.
Former athletes were given the opportunity to pursue their degrees here at Armstrong.
Lisa Sweany, Deputy Athletic Director at Georgia Southern, noted that “about 30 students [will stay] at Armstrong to finish their degree,” as well as, “there were three coaches that did not find other jobs and will be on payroll through December.”
Athletic scholarships and coaches’ salaries made up 65 percent of the athletic budget for the previous year.
Armstrong students are paying for access to all Georgia Southern athletics events and transportation for a select few.
As of late October, “approximately 45 students have taken advantage of transportation [and] moving forward we are providing transportation to the remaining home football games and select Women’s Volleyball matches,” says Dr. Georj Lewis, Vice President of Student Affairs.
When asked what specific enhancements are planned, Shore answered that the University is continuing to gather “feedback regarding expenditures for Recreation and Club sports.” There will also be a “feasibility study to determine what is needed to bring current athletic facilities to a division one level.”
Starting in January, the school will officially be known as the Armstrong campus of Georgia Southern University, a university with a division one sports program. Currently, Georgia Southern students pay a higher athletic fee than Armstrong students. All fees, including the athletic fee, must be approved by the University System of Georgia (USG), based on the recommendation by the university president.
According to the by-laws set by the USG, any proposal to change a mandatory fee must be presented to a campus advisory committee that is comprised of at least 50 percent of students. Recommendations from this committee are submitted to the President who makes a final recommendation. Armstrong’s committee will meet in late Nov. or early Dec., and the President will submit recommendations by Dec. 15 for Board of Regents approval in Apr. 2018.
Historically, Armstrong students at the Liberty Center Campus, located 34 miles from the Abercorn campus, were not charged an athletic fee. Armstrong campus is located 56 miles from Statesboro.