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Mississippi’s community colleges will be taking a hard look at the size of their athletic budgets in the coming weeks, in light of Gov. Haley Barbour’s recommendation in November to downsize or eliminate athletic programs systemwide.
‘‘This is an area that we are going to have to address,’’ said Eric Clark, executive director of the state Board for Community and Junior Colleges. ‘‘We have to do the numbers have to see what kind of cost-savings measures are on the table.’’
Cost-saving measures are at a premium these days, with the state budget projected to be reduced by $715 million for the next fiscal year, starting July 1.
That puts community college athletic budgets, which Barbour said ate up $20 million in 2007, squarely in the line of fire.
‘‘Intercollegiate athletics is an expensive endeavor,’’ Barbour spokesman Dan Turner said.
Neither Clark nor Turner could say how much money community college athletic programs generate to offset this cost.
‘‘We have not done any analysis on that yet,’’ Clark said.
Meridian Community College President Scott Elliott said Wednesday that Gov. Barbour and the Legislature have a formidable job in balancing the FY11 budget.
“I'm not really surprised that Gov. Barbour cited intercollegiate athletics as part of his budget recommendations. It's true that community colleges invest considerable funds in our sports programs, which, to be honest, are essentially non-revenue producing. Nonetheless, I would not be in favor of eliminating athletic programs because I believe they positively contribute to the overall college environment, helping to build school spirit and a sense of identity, unity," Elliott said. "Also, athletics provide numerous students an opportunity to showcase their God-given talents while pursuing higher education. If not for athletics, some of those students would never have the opportunity nor inclination to benefit from a college education.
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