In the last six months we’ve heard a lot about UMass’ commitment, or lack thereof , to making the Minuteman hockey program one of the best in Hockey East. We saw the radio contract for the team become an afterthought early in the Spring. There were rumors and later media reports that it was frustration with a lack of focus on the program that resulted in former coach Toot Cahoon stepping down with a year left on his contract. There was also talk that UMass was unable to lure high profile coaching candidates to Amherst because of the perception that hockey was not supported to the extent needed to win in an elite DI league. From Rand Pecknold, to Paul Pearl, to Mark Carlson we saw candidates choose to stay at locales that, on paper, seem like a step down from a Hockey East school. Yet we were never presented with any real evidence. Nothing concrete suggesting that the athletic department and athletic director John McCutcheon were shortchanging the hockey program has surfaced. No direct quotes from Cahoon or anyone else with the program were made public.
Well, today I stumbled across the following while searching on the UMass website. This lists the total 2011 spending and 2012 budget for each of the 19 sports offered by the school. As far as I understand it, the 2012 budget would go through this past June so the 2012 budget does not reflect Cahoon’s departure.
|2011 Act||2012 Bud||Var.||Inc/Dec|
|Cross Country (M)||$32,432||$28,061||($4,371)||-13%|
|Total Sport Spending||$15,250,772||$16,906,597||$1,655,825||11%|
So, as you can see above, the total spending on the hockey program from the 2011 actuals to what was budgeted for 2012 was –2% less. Given a cash strapped university in the current macro-economic environment this isn’t completely out of the ordinary. Until you look at what went on with the rest of the sports. Hockey was just one of three sports that had its spending reduced during this time with baseball and men’s cross country being the others. I won’t pretend to know a lot about the cross country team, but I do know that there are people who have followed the baseball team for years that are very unhappy with the commitment to coach Mike Stone’s team under McCutcheon. You can see that of the teams, hockey’s budgeted spend was decreased the most in terms of total dollars.
Not only was hockey’s budgeted spend decreased year over year, but you can see this flies in the face of most other programs at the school. The total Athletic Department spending on the individual sports increased +11%. On average each sport enjoyed a +8% boost to their budget from the prior year. What I consider the high profile sports at UMass (football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, and softball) saw their budgets increase at least 9% or more. But hockey’s contracted.
If you look in detail behind the above totals the decreases in the hockey budget came in Operating Expenses (-9.5%) and scholarships (-3.2%). Compensation for the hockey program went up during this time +5.5%. Now the decrease in scholarship expense could be a result of the team having more Massachusetts residents on the roster and thus more players who would pay in-state tuition. But the drop in operating expenses amounted to almost $50,000 less year over year.
Now there are a few caveats to note regarding the above information. First, we’re looking at just a small slice in time. The above represents just one year of actual spend and then the next year’s budget. Maybe hockey actually overspent their budget in 2012 so it didn’t matter anyway. Maybe they overspent in 2011 so 2012 was adjusted accordingly. It’s tough to draw conclusions with just two years of data. Ideally you want to look at at least three years worth of data to be able to establish a true trend. Unfortunately I couldn’t find this information for any other years though. Also, we don’t know why the operating expenses dropped 10% in the 2012 budget. The team could’ve had much higher travel expenses in 2011 versus what was planned in 2012. There could be a number of reasons.
However, this is the only real data we’ve seen regarding financial commitment to hockey year over year, compared to the other sports. And the data suggests that there could be some truth to the lack of support rumors. Hockey was not only the only high profile sports not to have their budget increased by at least 9%, but they actually had it reduced. You cannot deny that hockey is a complete outlier in the above data when it comes to year over year support. I also hate to pit one UMass sport against another because I root for all Minutemen and Minutewomen, but the comparison of hockey to women’s basketball is puzzling. Women’s hoops, which has 15 student-athletes and averages crowds under 600, but receives more than $200,000 more in funding and received a 10% boost?
For me, the above reinforces a lot of what I’ve already heard from those around the program, people previously associated with the program, and media members who have covered the program. I’ve spoken to many people who have flat out said that the university’s support of hockey relative to other major sports at the school and other schools in Hockey East is lacking. I would hope other Massachusetts hockey fans would find this information discouraging and, frankly, infuriating. Can Coach Micheletto win despite the department not supporting the team adequately? Sure. Win consistently? Perhaps. But it certainly makes his job that much harder.
In the wake of Cahoon’s departure McCutcheon was asked if the football upgrade meant hockey was being pushed to the back burner. He responded by saying, “We have not reduced our support to hockey by one cent because of football. We’re committed to hockey as much now as we’ve always been. Does it mean we have a blank check? No. But we will continue to support it the same way.” Well, the above data suggests support to hockey was reduced by more than one cent and is not being funded the same way. If McCutcheon wants to be trusted on this subject and affirm his support of the only UMass team playing in an elite conference, I say “Show me the money.”
UMass remains at #7 in CHN’s Hockey East Power Rankings.
Don’t look now but Yale, which UMass will face in a couple weeks, was named CHN’s Team of the Week.