AKRON, Ohio-- Less than a week after announcing the elimination of the baseball program at the University of Akron, administrators are being asked to consider making changes to the football program to help pay off a $60-million debt.
Some faculty members, including Dr. John Zipp, President of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, believe the costly football program should also be on the table.
One proposal includes taking the University of Akron out of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in which some of the nation's largest schools compete including Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama, Southern California as well as Cincinnati and Kent State.
The proposal includes taking the University of Akron to a lower level in which the school might save additional money with fewer players, fewer coaches and fewer expenses.
University of Akron Interim Athletic Director and Vice President for Finance Nathan Mortimer says the university does pay about $4 million a year on its debt for the stadium and adjacent fieldhouse. That is in addition to the cost of paying coaches and offering scholarships.
The university's subsidy for the football program totals about $8 million a year. That is far more than the cost of the baseball program which has been eliminated.
In addition, NCAA documents show the University of Akron had the lowest attendance in 2014 of any of the 125 schools in the FBS with an average of 9,170 people at each of their six home games.
"We have work to do on attendance and it's been well documented that we have an attendance issue that we are very cognizant of and we are working very hard to turn that around and the reality is the first thing we need to do is win on the field; if we start that, we think that's the first step," said Mortimer.
Mortimer says the university is still trying to come to terms with the difficult decisions it has already made but making changes to its football program has not been a part of the discussion.
"We are four days removed from a very painful decision in removing baseball and still trying to address the after-effects of that and the choices and decisions that both our players and coaches are going to have to make," said Mortimer.
"Our position is this, we've got an athletics program that we are proud of. We did make a painful decision a week ago. We are fully committed to our athletic program and we are really looking for great things to happen on the field this year. Having said that, we fully appreciate the cost of investment; we look to get a return on investment. We recognize we have some work to do and we are working hard to turn things around," said Mortimer.
He understands in order to turn things around the football program has to start winning, something it has not been doing well in recent years.
Mortimer said the football program along with the university's successful soccer and basketball teams are valuable to attract people to the campus.
At the same time, he said university administrators have been looking at everything to try and get their finances back in order.
"Really the challenge for all of us, particularly for those of us at the mid-major is finding the equilibrium between the academic programs, the other student activity programs, and athletics and that is what we are trying to do," he said.