CHARLESTON (WCIA) — Eastern Illinois University was one of the hardest hit by the state’s 700-plus day budget impasse. Several cuts had to me made, including in the athletic department. Now with a budget in place, Eastern athletic director Tom Michael has a brighter outlook on the days ahead.
EIU athletic director Tom Michael can look at the future of Panther athletics with a sharper focus nowadays.
“There’s a level of relief to say that they’ve gotten that piece of it figured out for all of higher education in the state of Illinois but specifically here at EIU,” Michael said. “The important piece there is now we have an opportunity to plan.”
And that’s something Michael has had to do a lot of the last few years. When he was hired back in 2014, Eastern’s athletic department was nearly a million bucks in the red. He balanced the budget in 2016, making up 986-thousand dollars. This year the Panthers will almost break even.
“We’re going to come awfully close to balancing it. It’s something that we’re awfully proud of with the financial circumstances that have been around the state of Illinois and around our institution,” Michael explained. “To be able to fiscally responsible as a department and a unit during these tough times is a credit to our staff and our coaches.”
Unlike Illinois and other Power 5 conference schools that receive big pay days from TV revenue to help them remain independent, Eastern’s athletic budget relies on the state to help make ends meet. This year about 10 percent of EIU’s 11 million dollar budget will come from state appropriations. Compare that to the U of I which will receive more than 40 million dollars from the Big Ten alone.
“The institution funds us at a pretty significant number which we certainly could not make it happen without that support,” he added.
And with a budget in place, Michael can focus on supporting his coaches and players this season, instead of worrying about what’s happening in Springfield.