UW Athletics Lays Off 13 Staffers

By  | 

SEATTLE (AP) - Saying it had to preserve the viability of its teams, the University of Washington athletic department will trim an additional $1.6 million from its budget by laying off about a dozen staff members and streamlining operations.

Athletic director Scott Woodward announced the additional cuts on Wednesday, two weeks after he decided to end the men's and women's swimming programs.

Cutting those teams is expected to save the Huskies $1.2 million. Washington's athletics program was a $60 million business with 23 sports and about 650 student athletes within the Pac-10 at the start of the current school year last fall.

By comparison, the athletic department budget at conference rival Washington State is $30 million. WSU plans to cut its athletic budget by $350,000 in the next two years.

Washington said its cuts are largely due to continually increasing costs, including of tuition and scholarships, plus a steady decrease in ticket sales, investment income and endowment distributions. They are part of a trend in the Pac-10: Stanford will chop $1.8 million from its athletic department budget this year, and $3.3 million next year, after its endowment lost about a
fifth of its value, and UCLA's budget will take a $1.5 to $2 million hit.

Oregon State has said it may cut sports if it can't raise more money from donors. And Arizona State's coaches are taking unpaid furloughs.

"While our budget reduction will have a stressful short-term impact on the department, these cuts regrettably are necessary to preserve the viability of our remaining sports programs," Woodward said. "We expect this action, over the long-term, to allow us to continue to serve our student-athletes and fans, remain self-sufficient and continue to maintain a positive fund balance."

The moves come months after Washington bought out the remaining year of fired football coach Tyrone Willingham's contract for $1 million in a lump-sum payment.

Woodward and university president Mark Emmert then committed $13.5 million over the next few years to hire first-time head coach Steve Sarkisian plus two coordinators and two other assistants in an emphatic push to resurrect Washington's flagship program that sunk to 0-12 last season. Of course, that $13.5 million expenditure is offset by the savings from Willingham's assistants departing.

The layoffs of nine more staffers - after four people were let go with the end of the swimming teams - is expected to save $600,000. Two of the eliminated jobs were open positions that will not be filled.

The UW said three more jobs will be reduced from 12-month to 10- or 11-month appointments.

Another $1 million is savings is expected from what Woodward called "across-the-board" reductions in Huskies' sports and administrative operating budgets, plus in various revenue generating initiatives.

Laid-off employees were notified Wednesday. The university said those people were provided two months' notice and will receive support in preparing for job searches, including workshops and counseling.

"It is extremely difficult to affect the lives of dozens of our employees and student-athletes in such a dramatic way," Woodward said. "Last week's decision regarding our swimming program, coupled with today's announcement of job layoffs, impacts a lot of people, and I wish we were not
in this situation.

"We have a very talented, committed staff, and for any of them to lose their jobs like this is just very hard. Our focus as a department right now is to help those affected by these cuts in any way we can."