On Wednesday, UNT's student senate had a first look at a proposed referendum that's likely to be put before the school's 34,795 students starting Oct. 13. If approved by the senate next Wednesday after some committee and open discussion, a student referendum would decide if UNT levies a new dedicated fee to fund intercollegiate athletics and part of a new football stadium. If sent to the students, voting would end Oct. 17.
We ran down most of the talking points in a Star-Telegram story that ran on October 6. There's talk of a new fee not taking effect until the stadium is either under construction or built, but no confirmation there.
Other than UNT's current home, Fouts Field, being the dump of major college football, other points deserve mention. First, some are under the impression UNT currently has a $3/semester hour student fee specific to athletics. Technically, that's untrue. UNT has no athletics-dedicated fee, for a stadium or any athletic purpose.
What UNT has is a $14/hour "student service" fee. Currently, six of the 13 schools in the Sun Belt Conference charge similar fees, a portion of which is earmarked for athletic funding and/or facilities. At UNT, $3/hour of this fee goes to athletics. Above that $3, a fluctuating amount per hour can be added each year. Can be. This school year, officials say an additional $2.28/hour is being taken from that $14/hour student service fee pool and sent to athletics -- or $5.28/hour.
UNT athletics is lucky the school's enrollment has risen by 9,000 or so students the last decade, since that's the only way this mysterious, per-hour piecemeal method of funding sports would have kept athletics reasonably afloat.
Apparently on the table in the senate is a flat $10/hour athletic fee. That equals $150 per semester for UNT's 15-hour students and should remove much of the athletic department's budget guesswork. By only getting a percentage of the per-hour fee pool now, UNT athletics is being shortchanged on lost potential revenue, due to part-time students paying less overall per semester.
Those students, by virtue of less hours taken, would still pay less, but UNT athletics would be spared the double hit of getting only a percentage on the lesser total amount. To fund Division I athletics and its facilities, this new method would be the most fair and equitable way.
Hopefully, this post didn't give you a severe headache. It did me.