A little more than a year ago, Paul Saikia didn't have a resolute answer on how York College planned to handle the increasing travel costs for its sports programs with three new schools joining the Capital Athletic Conference.
"In some ways we may have to adjust our non-conference schedule a little bit differently to compensate for that. Perhaps we'll schedule a school that's closer to us or play more home games or something like that. I think that's the basic solution to this," Saikia had said in a July 2012 interview.
The response came amidst a changing landscape for the CAC, with nearby schools Stevenson and Hood leaving the conference for the Middle Atlantic Conference and being replaced by far-away schools such as Christopher Newport (Va.) University and Southern Virginia. Penn State Harrisburg, practically a neighbor to York when compared to CNU and Southern Virginia, was also added to the CAC this season.
Saikia, York College's assistant dean for athletics and recreation, said in a recent interview the athletic department anticipates a hike of about $38,000 in travel costs for the 2013-14 school year, which prompts the question of how the school is planning to cover the bump in travel expenses.
Are ticket prices going up? Are non-conference schedules being reconstructed?
The simple answers to both of those questions are no and very little.
"As a precedent to the ultimate decision on the vote to expand to these schools, (former York College president) Dr. George Waldner and I had an agreement that if we're voting for this we also have to fund it," Saikia said. "Money was put into the budget to accommodate it."
Spartan Advance: Saikia also believes the school has found a potential aid with a newly-created booster club, dubbed "The Spartan Advance." It's the athletic department's first official booster club. While the club could help offset increased travel costs, Saikia said it will also provide funding for teams to participate in offseason tournaments or camps.
"Right now a lot of our teams are fundraising individually," he said. "Our more global fundraising with Spartan Advance is eventually going to take the place of that so that our teams are not individually fundraising."
By centralizing the fundraising efforts, pressure is taken off the shoulders of NCAA Division III student-athletes, who are already stuck with paying for a college education. Offseason camps or tournaments for sports teams will also be put on an equal level.
"If it's not institutional money, if you let teams do whatever they want to do (in fundraising), then things can get pretty lopsided," Saikia said.
These are all positive steps to sustain the athletic department's future. That's good news for the student-athletes. Ditto for the fans, who won't have extra dollars coming out of their pockets to attend sporting events.
"We're certainly trying to increase our spectators," Saikia said. "Not scare them off."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.