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WIAC tightens its belt

Players and coaches at UW-River Falls will be spending a lot less nights in hotel rooms after the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) announced a series of cost-cutting measures last week.

The conference announced a series of initiatives aimed at curbing expenses, most of them aimed at curtailing costs of transportation, lodging and meals that teams face when traveling, the single largest expenditure for teams in the WIAC.

UW-River Falls Athletic Director Rick Bowen estimated the university could save around $20,000 a year in trips taken by the Falcon football and basketball teams alone.

"We're going to adjust starting times so when we go to Whitewater or Platteville or Oshkosh, we don't go down the night before," he said. "In the future, you're going to start seeing some 3 p.m. kickoffs."

Bowen and the other eight athletic directors in the WIAC agreed to the measures in response to the current economic climate and the resulting imposition of budget cuts throughout the University of Wisconsin system.

These cuts are in addition to those budget-reduction measures already imposed by the state or UW-System, such as salary freezes and furloughs.

"The chancellors mandated to the athletic directors that we look for ways to save money," Bowen said.

Bowen said this fall's Falcon football games at UW-Oshkosh Oct. 10 and UW-Whitewater Oct. 24 will remain at 1 p.m. and noon, respectively. He said the Whitewater game is an exception because it will be Whitewater's homecoming. Oshkosh proposed moving its game with the Falcons to 7 p.m., but according to Bowen: "John O'Grady said he'd rather leave at 5 in the morning than play a night game at Oshkosh and get back at 3 or 4 in the morning."

In addition to later start times to minimize the number of overnight stays, some of the other initiatives agreed to by the athletic directors include:

  • Limiting postseason tournaments in all team sports to a maximum of six teams.
  • Restricting teams to taking no more than one trip during the regular season outside of an established regional perimeter.
  • Suspending the annual conference summer workshop and football and basketball media days for 2009.
  • Freezing officiating fees at 2008-09 levels.
  • Exploring the feasibility of scheduling one additional WIAC football team as a nonconference game beginning with the 2011 season.

    Bowen said since many WIAC schools have trouble scheduling three nonconference football games each year, the WIAC football coaches proposed adding an additional WIAC team as a nonconference game.

    "What this will do is knock nonconference games from three to two, and for the third nonconference game, we'd rotate through the schools," Bowen said. "So let's say one year we'll play Stout twice, and one game wouldn't count in the conference standings."

    The WIAC estimates the cost-cutting measures will save more than $250,000 conference wide. Add in the costs covered by booster clubs, fundraisers and other sources, and the conference says the number increases to $450,000.

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