St. Thomas University cancelled its men’s hockey team late in the 2015-16 school year.
At the time, the move was expected to save $245,000 as STU had to start reducing a deficit of approximately $1.3-million in its operating fund. The money recouped from dissolving men’s hockey includes the team’s budget of roughly $120,000 and another $125,000 in scholarships, bursaries and staffing costs.
Although STU paid off that much of the shortfall with the loss of men’s hockey, a request submitted by The Aquinian last semester under New Brunswick’s Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act found the university spends $251,000 on its 11 varsity teams.
“That’s where the travel and meal costs for each team are pulled from,” said Jeffrey Carleton, STU associate vice-president of communications.
“That’s budgeted, not actual. At the end of the [fiscal] year, we’ll know what the final figures are.”
The $120,000 that was previously set aside for men’s hockey covered travel and meal costs and operating expenses, along with salaries for coaches and assistant coaches.
Carleton said the other $125,000 for athletic financial awards came from a separate endowment fund.
Last season, Kyle McAllister, the now-departed men’s hockey coach, was paid between $75,000 and $99,999.
Carleton said the exact salaries and benefits paid to the athletics director, coaches and assistant coaches can’t be disclosed as their privacy is protected under the provincial government’s access-to-information legislation.
All of the disbanded team’s players who didn’t graduate transferred to other universities.
The team hadn’t made the playoffs since the 2007-08 Atlantic University Sport campaign. It posted a win-loss record of 36-165-23 in 224 games between the 2008-09 and 2015-16 seasons, including only four wins in its last two years.
For Jordan Moore, a former Tommies men’s hockey defenceman who played for STU from 2013 to 2016, the notion that the team was cut for financial reasons doesn’t make sense.
Moore graduated from STU last year and is now pursuing a master’s degree at the nearby University of New Brunswick. He said the men’s hockey program should have been more viable than the STU administration has let on because of donations from alumni and the youth hockey schools the Tommies hosted during the summer.
“I find it hard to believe the [athletics] budget is still that big with the other sports,” said Moore.
“They don’t get sponsors like hockey does, and their expenses are not as big, like for basketball and volleyball – the teams travel together and they don’t need expensive equipment and what not.”
STU’s remaining athletic teams include men’s and women’s basketball, women’s hockey, men’s and women’s rugby, men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s golf, along with co-ed cross-country and track-and-field squads.
Each team earns a share of the athletics department’s $251,000 pie for operating costs, road trips and meals.
The basketball teams’ budgets are $25,000 apiece, while women’s hockey receives $90,000. Men’s rugby is a competitive club team and gets $6,500. Women’s rugby runs on $10,000 and plays in a varsity conference.
The men’s volleyball budget is $21,000, while women’s volleyball is provided at a $27,500 price tag. Each soccer team is provided with $15,000 to operate, and $4,000 is set aside for golf.
The cross-country and track and field are each given $12,000.
Accommodation, meal and travel expenses are covered by those amounts.
In total, another $409,150 is paid in scholarships, bursaries and athletic financial awards from U Sports Canada and/or the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association from separate endowment funds for each varsity team.
“The 2016-17 departmental budget earmarks $27,000 for capital costs, which includes gear and equipment, and $69,000 for coaches and assistant coaches’ stipends,” STU president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell wrote in a letter responding to the Right to Information request.
For the 2016-17 year, STU athletics director Mike Eagles’ pay will fall in the $75,000 to $99,999 ballpark, while the two other office employees are set to earn between $40,000 and $59,999.
When the Tommies men’s hockey team was cancelled last year, Russell and Carleton cited the high cost of offering the program as a reason for the decision, along with revenues from sponsorships, attendance, advertising and fundraising that fell short of off-setting that tab.
Carleton maintains the move was necessary, given STU’s budget shortfall.
“We’re dealing with a structural deficit at the university,” Carleton said. “The decision with men’s hockey last year was one way we could begin to address that.”
STU has a deficit of $978,800 in 2016-17 before transferring restricted funds. Carleton couldn’t say how much more that will shrink or what else will be done about it where next year’s budget hasn’t been prepared or approved yet.