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Accounting professor says EMU will lose money by cutting four sports

Virginia Gordan
Michigan Radio

Eastern Michigan University's controversial plan to cut four sports teams to save money will actually end up costing money, according to EMU accounting professor Howard Bunsis.

Eastern says dropping wrestling, softball, tennis and men's swimming will save nearly $2.4 million a year, and the cuts are necessary because of budget constraints.

But Bunsis says EMU crunched the numbers wrong.  He says for one thing, EMU didn't include the loss of tuition revenue from athletes who will no longer attend the university.  

"The majority of the student athletes that participate in these four sports pay their own way to go to school at Eastern Michigan," says Bunsis, "and that revenue is going away."

He says EMU also admitted to overestimating the cost of wrestling by more than $279,000, and the university also didn't include the loss of NCAA's contribution to scholarships.

Bunsis claims when all the revenue losses and mistakes are accounted for, EMU will actually lose $61,000  a year by cutting the sports.

He says the only way for EMU to save money on sports is to switch the expensive football program from Division 1 to Division 2. 

He says EMU spends millions more on the football program than it gets in revenue, and it simply can't afford to compete on coaching salaries with more successful Division 1 programs like the University of Michigan.  Bunsis says he plans to release an analysis of how much EMU could save by switching football to Division 2 within a few weeks.  

In a statement responding to the Bunsis analysis, Eastern says:

The University stands by its long-term analysis relative to the future expense reductions related to the elimination of four sports.
It's important to note that the cited report works from an NCAA form summarizing previous year expenses and costs, while the University's estimates focus on projected budgets in the coming years. The athletic director has made it clear that such savings will not immediately be realized this next year but in the years to come.
In addition, the cited report fails to fully incorporate several key items, most notably the institutional aid (vs. athletic scholarships) received by student-athletes, which totals nearly $626,000 annually. It also likely overestimates how many athletes will leave the University.
And, as the athletic director has stated publicly before, this decision also took into account future and obvious costs required for new facilities and equipment, neither of which were factored into the cited report's numerical analysis.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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