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Future of hockey, baseball in question at ECC

Men's ice hockey and baseball are the most likely sports programs at Erie Community College to be suspended or eliminated if college officials can't find additional funds to support the athletics department.

Cutting the two sports would affect about 60 students butĀ could save as much as $134,000.

College trustees this week again rejected a proposal to increase the student fee that funds athletics, and college administrators now are scrambling to cut costs or find revenues other than a hike in student fees.

In a meeting with trustees Thursday, ECC Athletics Director Peter Jerebko identified hockey and baseball as the likeliest sports to be cut if the college can't find more money for the department. ECC President Jack Quinn said in an interview afterward that he was directing staff to "examine every possible way they can get this done without eliminating these sports teams."

Sports at ECC are funded through a student activity fee, which currently is $140 per year for a full-time student. The fee also pays for other programs, including childcare, commencement activities and student government, as determined by a committee of faculty, staff and students.

The fee has not been increased in several years although enrollment has declined, so the total amount collected and distributed has gone down.

At the same time, college officials are under pressure to meet the terms of an agreement with the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, which last year cited ECC for not providing enough athletic opportunities for women in proportion to the number of female students at the college. To help remedy the gender inequity, the college added swimming and diving and plans to add women's cross country this year.

"With our Title IX situation currently, we would not be able to cut any women's sports," said Jerebko.

College administrators proposed raising the student activity fee to $6 per credit hour, or $180 per year for a full-time student taking 15 credits -- a 29 percent increase over the current $140 per year.

But some trustees balked. It was the second time in a month that a proposed increase in student fees was defeated in a board vote. The resolution needed six yes votes to pass. It received five. One of two trustees who were not in attendance potentially could be a sixth vote, if the board were to reconsider the measure at its next meeting in June.

"I want to make sure the board has every shred of information they need," Quinn said.

Quinn said he was concerned that the college could lose dozens of students if it cuts sports teams, which would only worsen its enrollment situation.

Sports teams help draw students who might not otherwise choose ECC, and some administrators said cutting any teams will end up hurting the college's bottom line. An analysis by William D. Reuter, chief financial officer at ECC, showed that athletics generated $693,478 in positive revenue for the college, after costs for sports were factored in.

Football generated the most at $458,312, mostly due to double tuition rates charged to out-of-state students who play football. Baseball was second highest at $191,968. The baseball team had nine players from outside of the country who paid double tuition rates to attend ECC.

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