Four weeks ago the athletic administrative staff made the decision to cut funding to allow the band and cheerleaders to travel with the women’s basketball team to the Ohio Valley Conference Finals, according to director of athletics, Brad Hewitt.
“It has been an ongoing process. We started analyzing our budget nearly 12 months ago and we have identified what our needs and what our wants are, and identified areas that could be subject to elimination if needed to be,” Hewitt.
According to Hewitt the amount of money it costs for the cheerleaders and band to travel with the basketball team depends on the length the stay. The cost can range anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000.
“We are given an estimated amount of revenue to begin the year, but that doesn’t always come to formession. Each semester we decide where we are and make decisions on a probably two to three months out basis,” Hewitt said.
The decision to cut funding for traveling expenses for games was not done so just for the women’s basketball team, according to Hewitt.
“The cheerleaders and band attending the conference tournament is something that we try and budget and plan for if either team makes the post-season tournament. Mathematically, our men’s team was not eliminated from the postseason until this past Saturday [and] the decision on the budget expenditure was made four weeks ago,” Hewitt said.
According to freshman music education major and E-band member, Luke Griffin of Edwardsville, the band was informed they were attending the game until about two weeks ago when they were told they couldn’t because of funding.
According to Hewitt that the support of the band and cheerleaders are more of a want than a need at the moment, when considering the budget.
“There are many things that we do that are axillary support of our program, a part of the entertainment process, a part of the amenities that we try to provide student athletes and as we get tight on budget we have to decide on whether or not something needs to occur or if the money spent on a particular area is suited for something else,” Hewitt said.
According to Hewitt none of the programs had strong responses to the cuts.
“My opinion is it’s probably not something many people have cared about. This is not a decision that goes to constituency evaluation, it’s an operational budget decision. Operational budget decisions are made all the time. There are increases and decreases made in every department around the campus on an ongoing basis, based on external impacts, based on internal decisions, based on short and long raised planning. It’s the way every organization operates,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt said he can see how the band and cheerleaders not being at the game will cause impact, but not that it will influence the women’s basketball team performance on the court.
“Many things we do are for the total benefit of the institution. [In] athletics one of our primary roles is to invite, engage and entertain our constituents. Our constituents include our general public, our campus community, our students and everybody. So that’s one of our roles. The role of the band and spirit squad is apart of the entertainment performance,” Hewitt said.
According to Griffin, the vibe of the game will be different without the band and cheerleaders attending.
“I know that there is not going to be as much support without the cheerleaders and band. The amount of empowerment will be significantly less, the performance won’t be less, but the vibe will not be there like other games,” Griffin said.
The band and cheerleaders did not previously travel with the team just for entertainment purposes according to Hewitt.
“It’s for the institutional branding, it’s for the experience for the students involved. It has a lot of positive impact. Every decision we have impacts us to some degree. Like everybody else we try and make the least impactful decisions as we can and move forward,” Hewitt said.
According to sophomore ceramics major and cheerleader Lakyn Bowman, from Mount Vernon, the game won’t be the same without them and the band.
“We get the crowd involved and when we get the crowd involved they cheer on the team, and the team usually does better when the crowd is more involved,” Bowman said.
According to Hewitt the athletic department is working on an ongoing process to receive revenue from outside sources.
“It’s [the process] is very elaborate. It’s alumni donors, corporate sponsors, they range from individuals to corporate entities. For a lack of a better term, we have co-branding opportunities from business to be involved with our activities, so we put together sponsorship packages,” Hewitt said.
According to Bowman the budget cuts make her nervous for the future of cheerleading.
“I feel like we will be next and we work so hard for everything we do for the team and the school, and if they cut us they are really going to notice our absence,” Bowman said.