Canisius athletic department facing 19% budget cut

The Canisius Athletic Department is facing a 19% budget cut related to school-wide spending reductions, Athletic Director Bill Maher said Thursday.

Canisius athletic director Bill Maher said Thursday that the athletic department is facing a 19% budget cut, which amounts to $1.25 million, as part of the school-wide budget cuts.

No sports were eliminated in the cuts as school President John Hurley announced in a letter to the student body on Monday night, but according to Maher, eliminations were being considered.

“Any time you’re going through an exercise like this, you consider almost every available option and that was something we ultimately decided was not in the best interest of the college and certainly not something anyone wants to do,” Maher said.

With all of the 14 varsity teams that Canisius supports staying on, teams across the board have been asked by the school to cut back on the scholarships they offer to athletes. The school only offers 13 full athletic scholarships, all of them allocated to the men’s basketball program per NCAA regulations. 

The rest of the teams are allowed to hand out a certain number of full scholarships per team and they are divided up among the players. For example, a baseball program is allowed 11.7 full scholarships to be handed out, and a men’s lacrosse program is allocated 12.6 scholarships.

“All of our sports have been asked to make adjustments to their grants and aids overall, and that has been something that’s happened to those budget cuts,” Maher said. He added that the school is projecting 410 student-athletes for the 2020-21 school year, the most that the school has had since he took over as athletic director in 2005.

On top of the $1.25 million that the school has cut from the budget, the school is down $425,000 in NCAA revenue money, mostly stemming from when the NCAA Tournament was canceled in March due to COVID-19. 

If non-conference games are to happen in the winter, Canisius will attempt to get some money back from men’s basketball playing one “buy” game against a high-major school as well as playing in a multi-team event. Last year they did the same thing, the “buy” game being against the University of Pittsburgh and the multi-team event being the Boca Raton Classic in Florida last December.

There have been nine layoffs in the athletic department, including four from coaching and support staffs. Two of them come from basketball, each the men’s and women’s coaching staff will be one coach smaller. On the women’s side, assistant coach Linda Hill-MacDonald retired in May. The other five layoffs are of staff members within the department.

When the cuts occurred, a projected revenue budget for the school was still being developed and is still in development as of Wednesday.

As for the restart of sports, Maher said he believes that there is a “greater than 50% chance” that the MAAC will cancel fall sports. 

On July 17 the MAAC announced that they will only be playing conference games for men’s and women’s soccer as well as volleyball and pushed back the start date for all three; volleyball to September 19, women’s soccer to Sept. 26 and men’s soccer to Oct. 3. Before that, they had all been for Sept. 11.

“Those things are very much in jeopardy at this time,” Maher said, also saying that he expects more decisions to be made in the next two weeks. The MAAC Council of Presidents will meet on Thursday, and the NCAA Board of Governors will meet on Friday to discuss the fall sports season further.

“I think the challenges we are all facing are very real and they’re pretty much the same everywhere. The only good thing is that New York State does not have the infection rate that some other areas of the country do, but the challenges we face in trying to have fall competition are the same across the country,” Maher said.

“We are continuing to move forward and provide the best experience we can for our student-athletes,” Maher said on the entire process. “We’re going to continue to work to provide them a quality academic and athletic experience.”

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