Athletic director Jim Phillips talks about budget deficit and the athletic department


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Jim Phillips embraces Vic Law. The athletic director said his department implemented an 8-10 percent budget cut.

Daily Sports Staff

With only a few weeks left in the year, The Daily’s sports desk sat down with athletic director Jim Phillips ahead of the Big Ten Championship Game, where No. 21 Northwestern will play the No. 6 Ohio State with a potential berth in the Rose Bowl on the line. With the Game wrapping up a year that also featured the opening of the Walter Athletics Center and reopening of Welsh-Ryan Arena, Phillips talked about the affects the University’s budget deficit has had on the athletic department. His answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The Daily: How has the University’s overall budget deficit affected the athletic department?

Phillips: It has affected us greatly in the sense that we have taken an 8-10 percent cut across all our sports, across all of our programs. So we have felt the same pinch as the rest of the University. The facilities have been funded privately. That’s the difference. I think sometimes there can be a little bit of misconception. The facility projects have been donor funded. We’ve had the same kind of tightening of the belt to the tune of, again, 8-10 percent. Our coaches have been great. Our staff has been great. It’s what the entire University have done so we should feel the same effects. And so you look at where you can trim your budget some, you look at where you can reduce expenses, where you can reduce some of your costs. I’m proud of how the staff has rallied about it. I had a really important conversation with them last spring that this was coming and that we all needed to do our share.

The Daily: Where has some of that trimming come from?

Phillips: Well if you look at some staffing in certain programs, travel expenses, some just operational expenses. We really didn’t try to tell each of the units or each of the programs where we wanted it to come from, we tried to listen to them where they thought that some of those cuts should come from. In one program, it may have been travel. In one program, it could have been operational. In one program, it could have been staffing. When you have the department we have with 240-plus employees, which is only a fraction of what the University has, I think you have to listen to them as much as you can to see where it makes sense. We will come out of this as a University, I’m confident in it. I think universities just go through the periods of growth and reduction and we just happened to be in a time where we are trying to reduce a little bit.

The Daily: Those cuts, who are making the decisions? Is it the coaches for those programs?

Phillips: It’s kind of a shared conversation. Ultimately, it is my decision whether I would accept where they were asking to take that 8-10 percent from but it’s really been collaborative. I just think that’s been our culture here and the kinds of people we have here. Nobody’s fighting it. Everybody understands that we have to do our part as a department, both in athletics and in recreation.