Columbia’s athletic struggles due to lack of finances, playing space

By Samuel Charles

Columbia’s Athletic Department was founded less than 10 years ago, and while sports have been integrated into the curriculum in various academic departments, the college’s club sports continue to try to gain awareness, recognition and respect.

Athletes at the college face an array of challenges, predominantly with finances and logistics. The budget for the college’s club teams combined is $8,000 per year, which all comes from student activity fees. However, there is a limit to how much of the budget each team is allotted.

Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.—one of the colleges the Columbia Renegades baseball team faces during the season—has an annual athletics budget of $61 million.

Currently, there are six club teams at the college: co-ed volleyball, co-ed soccer, men’s baseball, men’s basketball, men’s softball and men’s lacrosse.

“[Columbia] will only cover up to 25 percent of teams’ total budget,” said Mark Brticevich, coordinator of Fitness and Recreation. “Most of the budget is expected to be raised by the team.”

The budget is not solely meant for covering team expenses. It is also used to spon-sor events that will aid the Athletic Department in raising awareness, such as displays.

There can be a valuable lesson in raising funds, Brticevich added.

“Club sports is like running a business,” he said. “That has more of a benefit than varsity because it gives [players] experiences that will blend well in the

business world.”

However, there are other ways to generate money that have not been tested, said Mackinley Salk, coach of the Renegades baseball team.

“Many people have seen what the jerseys and hats look like and say, ‘I would buy one if they sold it in the bookstore,’” Salk said.

Though funding is a challenge, Salk added, players are by no means desperate for equipment, but they are provided the minimum compared to other institutions they face, he said.

In past years, the baseball team has held bake sales and car washes as ways to raise money, but this year they will be raffling off tickets for a Chicago Blackhawks home game. Salk expects the raffle to bring in more than $1,000.

Athletics and club sports have been on the upswing at Columbia in recent years thanks to new students, said Kevin Hartmann, vice president of Athletics.

“We find that each year the freshmen class is more and more energized,” Hartmann said. “They’re looking for more things to do on campus, and luckily they’re finding us more [often] than they were before.

The Athletic Department will soon be moving to the basement of the Residence Center, 731 S. Plymouth Court, formerly occupied by the Spectacle Build Shop.

While the new area may be seen as a positive step, acquiring the space teams truly need is hard to come by, he said.

“It’s going to be nice for holding yoga and self-defense classes and things like that, but we can’t really hold basketball practice down there,” Hartmann said.

As soon as the Spectacle Build Shop is ready to move, athletics will take over the space.

There are plans to repurpose the area, such as installing new flooring, and making it more athlete-friendly.

Currently, the Athletic Department rents the gymnasium at South Loop Elementary School, 1212 S. Plymouth Court. The gym is used to hold basketball and intramural sports practices.

“[The gym] barely works for what we need it to,” Hartmann said. “We can’t really run an athletics program out of an elementary school gym we only get [for] four hours a day, four days a week.”

A more appropriate space would solve two problems at the same time, Hartmann said. It would give the athletes a more complete place to practice and play, and give athletics more visibility on campus.

“We’re playing home games 40 minutes away,” Hartmann said. “If Columbia students can’t see their athletes play, no one is going to know we exist. We need to address one [issue], and hopefully that will address both of them.”