In a turn of events, Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher announced on Tuesday that the HSU Lumberjacks will continue their football program. For weeks it was uncertain whether or not Rossbacher would decide to keep the intercollegiate football team. The team, according to Rossbacher, had outpouring support from alumni and community donors and she said she was impressed by the passionate group of boosters who led a fund drive to sustain the program. Football is currently HSU’s most expensive athletic programs and its fate was unknown due to financial challenges this year.
“The university as a whole is having to fund budget reductions and look for alternative sources of revenue. So we just couldn’t take money from one other part of the university and make up the deficit in athletics. And we couldn’t ask students to make up the deficit in athletic fees. Fortunately a group of truly committed boosters stepped up to help,” Rossabacher said.
The initial announcement was proclaimed in front of student-athletes, coaches and invited guests. Rossbacher was also joined by Jim Redd, a key leader in the booster fund drive along with Ceva Courtemanche, Head Coach Rob Smith and Interim Athletic Director Duncan Robins.
Redd expressed he was thankful for the commitment that many had toward keeping the program alive.
“Humboldt state has played football for 90 years and it looks like we’re going to be playing for another 90 years. It’s totally amazing what this community did. In about 60 days we raised over 500 thousand dollars and almost 2 million dollars for the next five years. That’s unbelievable. And it only happened because this community truly cares about you student athletes and the tradition of Humboldt State Football,” Redd said.
Meanwhile, the university continues to work toward addressing an ongoing structural deficit. Maintaining the program in the past meant a student fee increased but was determined by the HSU student body as an unsupportable solution. HSU students already pay the highest fee for athletics in the entire 23-campus California State University System.
In closing, head coach Rob Smith said he was also grateful that Rossbacher had kept her promise and had given athletics a chance to raise enough money to fund the program.
“What you keeping an open mind did was it allowed this community to step forward and show everybody not just locally but across this country what an unbelievable community we have here in Humboldt County," Smith said. "I can’t imagine many other places doing what this community has done.”
The strategy to fund HSU Athletics with partial community support would avoid the need to increase student fees. Collectively, the boosters and pledges to the football program have made $516,000 this year. They would need to maintain funds of at least $500,000 for the next five years to keep the program afloat. The plan is to collect funds through January to support the upcoming fall football season as well as other sports in the upcoming academic year.
Fact Sheet: Continuation of HSU’s Football Program
On December 5, 2017 HSU President Lisa A. Rossbacher announced the continuation of the University’s football program and other sports, which was made possible through a generous fund drive led by HSU boosters. In making the announcement, President Rossbacher stressed the following points related to a joint campus-community funding strategy going forward. 1. Removes uncertainty for football players and program staff. The primary reason for making a decision before the end of the fall semester was to provide football players and program staff maximum time if they chose to transfer to another university if HSU football was discontinued. With today’s announcement, players will have the assurance that HSU football will continue. For those who intend to explore opportunities to transfer, HSU will release them. 2. Embraces the tremendous support from the community boosters and places faith in their commitment to deliver. Although no funds have been collected yet, HSU recognizes the tremendous offers of support made to continue HSU football and other sports. By making a firm commitment to continue football before cash has been received, HSU is placing faith in boosters and those who have pledged as much as $516,000 this year, as well as in the continued ability of HSU boosters to convert these pledges in future years. 3. Creates a timely and transparent process by which everyone on campus and in the community can know whether pledged funds have been collected each year. The fund drive was launched to secure $500,000 in annual support for each of five years. To provide transparency and tracking of whether pledged dollars are received each year, HSU and booster representatives have agreed to work closely together to solicit, validate, and collect pledges for Athletics in future years. Current multi-year pledges (1-5 years) will be treated as legally binding commitments so long as the University continues its football program. Each fall, a fund drive will be held to collect payments for existing pledges and solicit new donations. Cash-on-hand will evaluated as of January 31 of each year to ensure the $500,000 goal has been reached, and the status will be reported to the University Resource and Planning Committee (URPC) and President Rossbacher. 4. Reduces general fund support for Athletics. This new community funding for Athletics shares the financial cost with HSU’s general fund, which is critical as the University works to address its structural budget deficit and not risk deeper cuts to academic programs. 5. Retains up to 100 student-athletes. Although it is unknown how many football players would have left HSU if football had been discontinued, the preservation of football retains up to 100 student-athletes in the program. This will be particularly important as the University fills vacant positions in Admissions and other key areas, and formulates a long-term strategy to recruit and retain students. 6. Avoids any increased fee burden on HSU students. The HSU student body has been clear that increased student fees was not a supportable solution for addressing the budget deficit in Athletics, especially since they already pay the highest fee for athletics in the 23-campus CSU system. The strategy to fund Athletics, in part, with community support avoids the need to consider increased fee support from students.