Huskie review released
Although impressed by both the success of University of Saskatchewan athletes and the support they receive from the community, the people asked to review Huskie Athletics warn the program is in jeopardy without major changes to its funding and administrative structures.
In addition to offering 26 recommendations in their report released May 9, the reviewers – Dru Marshall of the U of A, Darwin Semotiuk from the University of Western Ontario, and Ken Shields from Victoria, B.C. – highlighted the “the tremendous pride, passion and enthusiasm” that exists for Huskie Athletics. The program’s success, they said, is due in large part to the coaches, support staff, student athletes and the support of alumni and community groups.
But the review panel also suggest Huskie Athletics is in need of decisive intervention to deal with “significant” financial, human resource and unionization issues as well as leadership problems. “Huskie Athletics is under-resourced, undervalued, misunderstood and unappreciated”, the report said.
Despite the criticism contained in the 14-page document, U of S President Peter MacKinnon told local media it is important the report be made public “given the extent of interest in Huskie Athletics.” He added the University will take the recommendations of the panel seriously (see related story Page 11) – “We do not intend to let the review sit on the shelf.”
MacKinnon called for the review in October 2005, giving the panel the mandate to look at the role and expectations of Huskie Athletics, the effectiveness of its organizational and fiscal model, and whether it achieves its mission.
The next step, said MacKinnon, is to set up a working group to examine each of the 26 recommendations and their financial implications, “and to decide what is going to be implemented.” That group will include, among others, Kinesiology representatives, financial experts and students. No time frame is in place but MacKinnon pledged to “move with dispatch” on the process, he said, will be open and consultative.
The review process included a three-day site visit in March. The panel conducted interviews with Huskie and Kinesiology staff, personnel from Financial Services, Human Resources and University Advancement, alumni, senior administrators and students.
Money will be a factor in implementing many of the report’s recommendations, including a call to increase the University’s financial support for the program to cover the salaries of the Director of Huskie Athletics, three staff, and all coaches. The University currently allocates $170,000 annually to Huskie operations, plus $160,000 for travel expenses, but last year, the coaches raised $302,000 to cover salaries and other costs. The report also suggests a forensic audit to determine the “true costs” of athletics.
The success of Huskie teams and the requisite trips to playoffs and national championships has left the program with an accumulated deficit of $750,000.
“We have to sit down and ask ourselves ‘how much of it can we afford to do?’. I’m very supportive of Huskie Athletics but I’m not going to make major incursions into the University’s operating budget to build capacity in Huskie Athletics. We have to find the resources elsewhere.”
The most expensive recommendation in the report is that the University replace its ice arena, built in 1929. “Rutherford Rink has been around a long time,” said MacKinnon, “…and we all know its condition” but replacing it will require substantial resources from outside the institution. The Board of Governors recently approved a feasibility study of a combined performing arts and twin ice rink centre.
Asked about the review panel’s description of the Huskie working environment as poisoned and challenging, MacKinnon explained the consultants relied on comments from individuals and “every (work) environment has its issues.” As for personnel changes in the program, a thorough review of all the recommendations will indicate “what additional steps need to be taken.”
Review recommendations highlighted
Below are some of the recommendations of the Huskie Athletics Review committee:
The complete report can be found on the College of Kinesiology website.