Uphill climb for Columbia sports

By Timothy Bearden

As the Columbia Renegades men’s basketball team prepared for their game against Olivet Nazarene University on Nov. 13, looking for its first win of the season, the club had to postpone its hopes of defeating the 2-4 Tigers until February due to lack of funding for transportation to the game in Bourbonnais, Ill.

“The Athletics Department doesn’t have any bus or van, so we usually try to rent one,” said Josh Hasken, president of Columbia Athletics. “But we’ve used what little money we had on renting them on the previous couple of games”

Some of Columbia’s student activities fee goes toward funding the sports clubs at the college, since there is not an official department, Hasken said. The basketball team, however, used more than $1,000 to buy new jerseys, which are now owned by the college, so they’ve relied on team dues, $75 per player, to travel to and from games, he said.

Hasken, the head coach and a player for Renegades basketball, said the athletics program is struggling as a whole with stability and funding in their search to find a more permanent standing on campus.

Mark Brticevich, coordinator of Fitness and Recreation in the Office of Student Engagment, said while the school does what it can to help, the intent of athletics at the college is to simply get students active.

“We’re not like other colleges where we’re playing sports at an NCAA level,” Brticevich said. “This is strictly club sports, and club sports is all about if you want to play it you have to step up and help man the teams.”

Brticevich said the school does try to help fund the teams and supplies them with faculty advisers to mentor and “get them through the rough times.” But Hasken said the men’s basketball team’s adviser, who also coached the team, recently quit.

“It got to the point where he was putting in so many hours that he started looking to get paid or reimbursed,” Hasken said. “We don’t have any money to pay coaches at all, so he quit about a month ago.”

Hasken said the soccer team is also struggling to find a student who’d be interested in a leadership role and an adviser to help the team. But students are still interested in a soccer team.

Brticevich said this is a common problem. Most students want to play the sports, but no one wants to organize them, which he emphasized is the whole idea behind club sports.

Aldo Guzman, director of Student Engagement, said the clubs also have to do their own fundraising, just like any other organization on campus, to help with funding.

Kari Sommers, assistant dean of Student Life, said the athletic clubs have been allotted a $36,000 budget for this year. She said last year they underspent the budget, only using $28,000.

She didn’t know the previous budget amount, but knows it was more than what was used.

Sommers said funding isn’t as big of an issue as other resources the program needs help with from outside the administration.

“There are things we’re really actively looking for that we need some help from the community [with], such as finding a new coach for the basketball team and new facilities,” she said.

Roosevelt University allows the college to use its facilities, but Sommers said that’s not going to be around much longer.

Hasken said funding and stability are problems, but another issue with the program is the lack of an athletics trainer, someone who helps players if they get hurt at the games.

Columbia’s teams rely on their opponents’ staff to help out if someone gets injured during a game. With the lack of “adult supervision,” Hasken said he thinks if someone were to get hurt, “the school could be in a really bad situation.” He said it’s also a liablility to have the students pile into a van and travel on their own without an adviser.

Brticevich, however, said the players are required to sign transportation waivers and a waiver at Roosevelt’s Marvin Moss Student Center, 425 S. Wabash Ave., where the basketball team practices. The waivers are designed so if a player gets hurt, it’s the student’s responsibility, not the facility’s or college’s. Brticevich said there’s no such waiver for games.

Hasken said the lack of these main resources and the growing amount of interest calls for a real Athletics Department on campus. Brticevich said he thinks it’s possible in 10 to 15 years.

“We need to grow on everybody,” Brticevich said. “We need students to help [athletics] grow on everybody. Who knows what time will bring down the road.”