Yet another collegiate ski program is on the chopping block.
Due to budget shortfalls in Minnesota, the St. Cloud State University cross-country ski program could be shuttered by the 2011-2012 season. The closure of that program is included in one of three cost-cutting measures being considered by university administrators, who will make a decision by December 6th.
“After the last couple of years, when a bunch of schools out west have gone down, it’s not what we want to hear,” said Head Coach Jeremy Frost.
Due to the economic downturn, collegiate programs have lost varsity-level funding at the University of Nevada and at Whitman College, in Washington, over the past two years. Both of those schools were members of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, which now includes just seven members.
St. Cloud’s ski team is part of the 11-member Central Collegiate Ski Association, and it is women’s-only: The program was added a decade ago as part of a gender-equity move, Frost said.
Its elimination is included in one of three proposals before the school administration, as part of an effort to close a $552,000 budget deficit for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
The first proposal would leave all the university’s teams intact, instead relying on a combination of fundraising, administrative cutbacks, and increases in student fees to make ends meet.
A second option would eliminate the school’s football team, while the third proposal would cut the ski program, along with men’s golf, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s tennis.
According to documents released by the university, closing the ski program would save roughly $32,000 in 2011-2012—$25,000 in operating costs and $7,000 in scholarships. By comparison, cutting the football team would net the school $303,000.
As a full-time employee of the university, Frost coaches for half the year, and spends the rest of his time teaching health and physical education courses. He said his contract runs through the 2011-2012 school year, which leaves his job secure until then, regardless of the status of the ski team.
In an interview, Frost said that the program’s fate likely hinges on two factors: decisions by the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) and the St. Cloud student body.
Football is required for a school to be part of the NSIC, Frost said, and since St. Cloud is a member, the proposal to cut the football team would require the conference to amend its by-laws. The NSIC is currently examining those rules, Frost said, and it will make a decision on whether to change them by mid-November.
Any increases in student fees—which are included as part of all the plans—have to be approved by a student referendum, according to an article in the St. Cloud Times. That vote would also happen in mid-November—if it is authorized by the student government.
The final decision, though, is up to the St. Cloud administration, and Frost said he thought that their preference was to close the budget gaps without cutting any sports.
“I really believe that that’s the way they would prefer to proceed,” he said. But, he added, “it’s up to the students, [and] it’s also potentially affected by what the conference says.”
Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.