home sitesearch contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

UL Athletic Program Institutional Review – focuses on UL’s future

Athletics and management are key issues

Among the questions UL’s next president should consider is whether or not the university can continue to support a Division 1-A football program, according to an institutional review of the university.

The report released Monday also says the university should seek to change its culture of micromanagement, increase its tuition to the regional average and find
money for nearly $130 million in deferred maintenance.

But the university’s situation is far from bleak, according to the review led by James Fisher, the consultant hired by the system to come up with recommendations for UL’s next president.

“The University of Louisiana at Lafayette provides a sterling example of how one can achieve much with comparatively little,” Fisher writes in the opening line of the review.

The 60-page review picks apart every aspect of the university from administrative organization to athletics and technology with recommendations made in each category for the next president to consider.

Outgoing UL President Ray Authement asked for the review when he announced his plans to retire earlier this year.

The team of reviewers interviewed more than 250 faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. While all interviewees are listed in the report, comments are not attributed.

On Monday, Authement called the review “positive,” but didn’t agree with all its points, especially when it came to athletics.

“We’re just beginning to put our heads above water financially in athletics,” Authement said. “I don’t think that’s an option for the next president. Football is very important to the schools in Louisiana and believe it or not, if we go to a lower division, it will cost us more than what we’re spending now.”

Because the Board of Regents funding cap and game guarantees are tied to division status, it would impact all programs, said David Walker, UL athletic director.

For instance, the football team will take in about $750,000 to play the University of Tennessee this week.

“If we were in a lower division, that would never happen, we’d lose money traveling,” Authement said.

The review also focused on the university’s management, noting the current system in which decisions ranging from travel, hiring and equipment purchases must be made by the president’s office is not “conventional,” according to the review written by Fisher.

Efforts to reach Fisher Monday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Authement was criticized by some of his staffers for his micromanagement, but such comments aren’t new, Authement said.

“It may be a style that needs to be changed, but it has brought the university into a stable financial situation,” he said. “Some people would like to have more flexibility, but when you have a shortage of dollars, you have to control expenditures.”

The five candidates selected to interview to become the university’s next president will have a chance to study the recommendations before their interviews Nov. 12-13.
Among the recommended changes was decentralizing hiring practices. Currently, department chairs can only bring in one candidate at a time for an open position and the process to get the candidate onto campus is lengthy.

Authement said it’s difficult to bring in more than one candidate at a time because of the state’s bureacratic process.

“We’re dealing with state funds here and state travel regulations and we have to be careful about the number of people we bring in to be interviewed,” he said.
While UL is fiscally sound, its infrastructure should be a focus point for the next president. Nearly $130 million in deferred maintenance needs to be address, the review stated.

Authement has said when he leaves office, he’ll continue to devote his time to the university by helping to raise money.

Fundraising was also an area pinpointed by the consultants with a recommendation that a vice president of university advancement be appointed and UL begin a capital campaign to whittle down its maintenance needs.

While 29 staffers in seven offices are affiliated with some aspect of advancement, only 8 percent of alumni support the university, while the national average is 11 percent.

“This is the only administrative division of the University which is not unusually lean,” the review stated.

Many of the issues are on Authement’s radar. Current projects, such as the university’s first parking garage and renovations and an expansion of Burke-Hawthorne Hall had been planned for years — the Burke project for decades, but the governmental process slowed those projects.

If the university wants to grow, it will also need to consider acquiring more property adjacent to its main campus, according to the review.

Authement has made such attempts in recent years that have been met by strong public opposition.

Authement should let the new president handle plans for future campus growth, which should include buying property adjacent to the main campus, the review advised.

On Monday, Authement said he didn’t think that recommendation was feasible, especially if opportunities arise for the university to go out to bid on its horse farm property.

“I would suspect that if the opportunity comes up we need to grab it,” he said.
Such a request wouldn’t be made to the system until December, if it’s made — Authement said Monday.

The new president shouldn’t make property expansion decisions solo, either, according to the review.

Fisher recommended that a committee be formed to develop a comprehensive plan on the best use of existing property and to pinpoint which properties the university may need for its future growth.

More online

Read the review at www.ulsystem.net.