BSU President Quistgaard affirms support for BSU athletics

Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard affirmed his support of the university's Athletic Department in general, and the hockey program in particular, in an interview this week with the Pioneer.

Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard affirmed his support of the university's Athletic Department in general, and the hockey program in particular, in an interview this week with the Pioneer.

Quistgaard's comments came during an interview Wednesday, nearly three weeks after a major announcement of a proposal that calls for a $5 million overall budget reduction university wide. In addition, the proposal called for a fund-raising campaign to generate $2.5 million for the university hockey programs.

"Athletics are an important aspect of the college experience. I feel strongly about that," Quistgaard said. "We are in the process of looking at where we are and what we can do to be economically viable.

"I want to be very clear ... I am a strong supporter of Bemidji State hockey. My goal is to do everything I can to make sure we have the kind of hockey program we all want at Bemidji State.

"I would be the first to acknowledge all the tremendous work that has been done by all the coaches over the years to build the great tradition that has been established at Bemidji State. I really respect the work of the current men's hockey coaching staff in all they have accomplished in moving the program to the NCAA D-I level. They have done an outstanding job."


The university has shown a strong commitment to the hockey program over the years through financial support and will continue to do so, university officials indicated.

"The hockey programs currently are not economically viable," Quistgaard said. "D-I athletics involve a major expense. The university is unable to provide the level of support it has in the past. As a result, we need friends and supporters of Bemidji State hockey to contribute to make it an (economically) viable situation."

Bill Maki, BSU vice president for finance and administration, said the proposal calls for $2.5 million to be pledged by May 1, 2008. "The dollars would come in over a five-year period ($500,000 per year), similar to a capital campaign where dollars are pledged over a longer time frame," he said.

The dollars would be used to fund men's hockey from the 2008-09 season through 2012-13 during which time the program would transition to a new venue (the Bemidji regional events center) and into a new conference (the Western Collegiate Hockey Association). The city of Bemidji is considering construction of an events center and the men's hockey program is in the process of applying for membership in the WCHA.

"It would allow time for the men's program to become self-supporting," Maki said. "The dollars would be used to fully fund the men's program, along with increased ticket revenue.

"That's the level the university has been funding the (men's hockey) program. There will be added costs of increasing the scholarship level to 18 (the NCAA maximum) and bringing the third coaching position to full-time."

Maki said for the men's hockey program, "direct expenses have exceeded direct revenues by about $450,000 in each of the last two years. On the women's side it has been a bit higher, about $502,000 last year."

The university would continue to support the men's hockey program even after the fund-raising campaign, but at a much lower level than currently, while continuing to fund the women's hockey program at current levels.


Quistgaard said the current BSU revenue situation is the result of several economic factors, including declining state support, a shift in the funding formula based on enrollment, a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system-wide mandated increase of no more than 4 percent and a declining number of high school graduates.

"(University wide) our costs have been exceeding revenues for quite some time," Quistgaard said. "We have been doing a series of one-time cuts to address this situation for quite some time as well."

The latest budget proposal is an effort to put the university in a position where the budget can be stabilized.

"I've been here nearly 30 years," Quistgaard said, "and we have gone through these types of things six to eight times. We want to have a plan so we'll be less prone to having to take steps like this in the future. This isn't only about making budget reductions, but also finding ways to increase revenues."

While NCAA Division I sports are expensive, they also offer an opportunity to generate significant income. Maki reported that in five-year projections, the university "is planning for significant increases in revenue with the hockey program playing in a new venue. Ticket revenue, for example, is projected at more than doubling under such a scenario," he said.

The university will continue its participation with the city of Bemidji in the process of constructing a regional events center, Maki said.

Concerning the WCHA, Maki reported the university is not requesting that the men's program be a member of the league for the 2008-09 season. "There needs to be an indication, by May 1, 2008, that BSU would be accepted into the WCHA at some point," Maki said. "Not by the next season, certainly, but in a time frame as decided by the league - in much the same way things happened when Mankato was accepted by the WCHA."

Quistgaard said it was too early in the process to speculate if other proposals concerning conference affiliation for the men's hockey program would be considered by the university. However, he did say he was aware of conversations that have been going on concerning the future of the Beavers' current league, College Hockey America, reconfiguring other established leagues, interlocking schedules and the like. "I will rely on (BSU Athletic Director) Rick Goeb as counsel as far as the most prudent course to take," Quistgaard said.


"I know it's hard for people to understand that we're in the process of receiving responses from the various parts of the university concerning the proposals we've made. It's my responsibility to listen to all the input and that takes time. I would like to give responses to specific questions, but it's just not possible in this complex situation to work any faster."

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