CARBONDALE -- Graduate assistants and how Southern Illinois University's 18 sports teams travel could be on the chopping block if proposed cuts to the athletic department go through for the next fiscal year.
In an effort to better prepare for a possible $32 million in budget cuts to the SIU Carbondale campus, as Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed, the university asked the athletic department to make a plan in case $600,000 was cut from its upcoming fiscal year budget. That number is only a potential reduction, as the state legislature has yet to pass the final budget.
Even though it's only 3.2 percent of the department's expected $18.7 million budget, that kind of loss could be extremely damaging, according to Mark Scally, the executive associate athletic director in charge of finances.
SIU could lose more than a third of its 30 graduate assistants on staff.
"We would have to look at laying off 10-12 grad assistants, because they're graduating. We just won't replace them," Scally said. "We'd look at personnel first, and if there's still money that we're looking for, we'd still look at cutting back on travel. Football, for example, is scheduled to take two chartered flights next year, and we'd have to look at 'Can we afford a chartered flight?'"
Chartered flights typically cost about $85,000 apiece, according to Scally. SIU's football team plans to take a chartered flight to South Dakota for a game against the Coyotes on Nov. 7 and to Iowa to play at Northern Iowa on Nov. 21. If the Salukis took a chartered bus to Vermillion, South Dakota, it would cost about half as much as the flight but take 10 1/2 hours each way.
A bus trip to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for the Northern Iowa game would be about an eight-hour ride both ways.
The marketing department could take the biggest hit if SIU was forced to keep some graduate assistant positions vacant. That department is already without a full-time director/assistant athletic director and is currently staffed by two grad assistants.
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