By: JIM IRIZARRY
Despite the Student Government Association (SGA) approving $4,500 to the baseball team last week, that money continues to be tied up in formalities.
SGA president Stephen Salisbury has yet to sign the legislation that would OK the deal. Salisbury said during last Friday’s meeting that athletics director Steve Bruce had reached out via email to consider vetoing the legislation that would give the baseball team the money it needs to buy another set of jerseys.
“[Bruce] didn’t want the relationship between the athletic department and the SGA put into an uncomfortable position where coaches or teams are circumventing the administration, which is him; he’s the athletic director,” Salisbury said in the meeting.
Salisbury said that Bruce is not against the SGA funding the jerseys, but if in future budget hearings or, in future SGAs in particular, that the $4,500 could not be used as a basis for a denial of any possible funds in the future. The SGA is the primary source of funding for IUSB’s men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as the volleyball team. The chancellor, through the general fund, supports all other sports teams.
“The reality is this: We can allocate as much money as we want [to athletics], we could give $10,000 if we wanted,” Salisbury said. “If [Bruce] doesn’t approve the purchase order, the jerseys don’t get bought. Then, the money just sits there.”
The possible indication that Bruce would not okay the purchase order is the main reason why Salisbury could still veto the bill. Salisbury said that he has told that to baseball coach Mike Huling.
Bruce spoke at the meeting, calling the athletic department’s relationship with the SGA “rich, trustworthy and very team-oriented,” but stressed that he wants future funding issues handled a certain way.
“[The athletic department and the SGA budget committee] meet annually, and we’ll request the things that we feel we need to have a quality athletic program,” Bruce said. “I would like to keep things at that interval. I think it will work best for me as the athletic director, as well as for the SGA, where the SGA has just one visit with athletics and isn’t getting, for lack of a better term, kind of pot-shotted by different sports whenever they want to get something else.”
Salisbury wondered that, since it was the players and not the coaches who made the request, if there were any processes in place for when student-athletes are making the requests for funding. Bruce said that while students certainly have the right to make funding requests, he feels that it could put the SGA in a bad position and “open up a whole new can of worms.”
SGA senator Rhonda Redman expressed concerns over player safety if both teams are wearing jerseys with essentially the same main color.
“I worry about situations where you have two different people from two different teams standing next to each other in similar-looking uniforms and one of them gets hit because they weren’t expecting the ball to be thrown to them,” Redman said.
SGA senator Lois Kassem headed the team’s jersey funding request. She expressed concern over the lack of knowledge of the SGA by the team’s players and coaches, but saw what the players did as “a great thing.”
“They saw a need for their team. They see their coaches doing laundry between the 50 away games that they play…They thought it was awesome,” Kassem said. “They were running around during finals with a GoFundMe account, fundraising to pay for all of their stuff. To me, that didn’t seem right when all the other sports don’t have that same treatment.”
Kassem wanted any backlash brought on by the request to be directed at her, not the baseball team’s players and coaches.
“It just seemed right. It seemed ethical. It seemed good,” Kassem said. “It seemed student-led, and I was all for it. I did the funding for us. I did the case. I presented their budget. I showed their uniform; that was me.”
Kassem said that, as a member of the budget committee last year, that she understands that the athletic department has budgets presented every year. But, Kassem noted, the budget committee changes from year to year and sees some things differently, citing last year’s three percent cut of the budget.
“I respect the policy of the budget and adhere to it, that’s your separate account. I totally respect that,” Kassem said. “This $4,500 does not come out of that. It doesn’t affect your budget. It’s completely out of our account. It’s us, doing something good for our brand new sport. It’s telling those coaches that we care, that there’s resources out there and you’re not alone in this. We’re here for you. And now, they know what the SGA is. To me, it was just a good opportunity to help out.”
In regards to the possibility of a new precedent being set, Salisbury said that the SGA historically has been able to handle any request for funding from campus groups.
“They had taken into consideration all of the potential ramifications of passing something like this,” Salisbury said. “It does open us up to the possibility that other groups will come, and we can deal with that. We’re not worried about dealing with that as an organization.”
Salisbury said that the SGA does not consider the funding request to be unreasonable, nor does he feel that the relationship between the SGA and the athletic department would be put in jeopardy.
“We understand that there’s a conflict between what we fund with the general fund, adding the sports, that that’s an ongoing discussion we will continue to have as we hand things on to the next SGA,” Salisbury said.
Salisbury has until Friday to make his decision on whether he will sign the bill or veto it. In the event of a veto, the Senate could then present a case to override Salisbury’s veto.