Lawmaker wants UI, ISU to pay for UNI athletics

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Tom Ackerman, [email protected]

 

The University of Iowa and Iowa State University could pay $20 million to the University of Northern Iowa in athletics funding.

State Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, proposed a bill this week offering funding to the UNI Athletics Department, because, he said, it is consistently in debt while other state schools are financially thriving in athletics.

“For years, the University of Northern Iowa’s athletics budget has been running in deficit, and to cover that, it’s been the practice to use student fees and tuition,” Johnson said.

The proposed bill will be heard in subcommittee in the Senate before it may gain traction, he said, though the designated committees are unclear at this time.

The bill would grant $4 million for five years to UNI from the other state universities.

“[UNI] doesn’t have a Coliseum or Kinnick Stadium. Those kinds of venues draw in the big dollars. They don’t have the TV contracts,” he said. “Why not share all that?”

Johnson also said UNI has top athletics prospects that graduate from the university much like ISU and the UI, such as running back David Johnson, who was picked in the third round by Arizona.

The UI and its Athletics Department declined to comment on the proposed bill.

Scott Ketelsen, a media relations director at UNI, said it is too early to voice much of a response.

“That’s all it is at this point in time — proposal,” Ketelsen said.

He indicated trust in the state Board of Regents.

“They have our backs,” he said. “They represent all the universities.”

“I would expect Iowa and Iowa State to not be very happy with this, nor would I expect the [regents] to see legislation of this kind,” Johnson said.

He also said the issue should be discussed by the regents because UNI holds more students in-state after graduation than ISU or UI.

“UNI is a very valuable public university,” he said. “We all ought to work this out together.”

Josh Lehman, the director of communications for the regents, said the way in which the current budget was planned is sufficient for the annual funds.

“The board believes that the best way to appropriate money to any of our institutions is to fund the appropriations request made by the board last September,” he said. “That includes funding levels for each of the three universities and a wide range of other things.”

Lehman said he is unaware whether communication has been made among the regents on the issue.

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