EMU's hockey club pays to play

The Eastern Michigan University Hockey Club was established in 1976 through Campus Life – before any player on the current roster was even born. For every one of those years in existence, funding for the hockey club has come from smart fundraising and from the financial assistance of EMU’s Student Government.

The most expensive club sport at EMU asks student government every year for financial assistance, but it isn’t quite enough and some years it isn’t given.

Kevin Gee, the head coach and director of hockey operations, took over the hard decisions four years ago.

“The biggest challenge for us is that we are not supported by the university,” Coach Gee said. “We are a student club, but we run it like an NCAA team. We play varsity like schools. We recruit like an NCAA program.”

Gee said that the hockey club raises over 85 percent of their budget through fundraising and player fees. Each player has to pay to play at EMU, and the price is $2,500 per player.

“Our budget is entirely self-service,” Gee said. “We volunteer our services, and get paid a stipend for [our] work, cut from our budget. Sometimes assistant coaches get the short end of the stick and their stipend comes out of my pay.”

Desmond Miller, EMU’s student government president said the Rec/IM and student government work together at the beginning of the fiscal year in budgeting for club sports and student organizations.

“This year we budgeted $50,000 for both club sports and student organizations. We disburse funding at a first come first serve basis. Per month, they can request up to $4,500 per allocation request,” Miller said.

Miller said the last time he checked, there were 63 student organizations, and the average request from a student organization is about $1,000. In addition, student government receives about 63 allocation requests a year on average.

“All student orgs and club sports deserve to receive funding as long as their request does not break our rules and enhances the student experience,” Miller said.

Gee said that the hockey club pays a monthly fee ranging from $4,000 to $6,000 just on ice. Adding up to $30,000 a year to rent out Taylor Sportsplex.

“This is not a current dilemma,” Gee said. “We have to get money from Student Government every year. They will only pay for our ice time. We have to be absolutely careful with our budget. We need the support of the university.”

Gee said that the Hockey Club pays close to $20,000 in travel expenses that includes charter buses, hotels and meals.

Kyle McAlear – the assistant director of Club Sports, Intramural Sports and Softball Complex Rentals – said if EMU were to pay for travel expenses it would be of great help to the hockey club, but could potentially foster a liability for the university.

“If something bad happens on the road, it would fall back on the university,” McAlear said. “The biggest help the University could offer would [be] to pay for ice time. That is a huge component of the hockey club’s expenses. Ice time is so expensive since the university doesn’t have its own ice rink.”

Gee and McAlear said consistent funding from Student Government poses a problem within itself due to turnover of new senators in the student government every year.

“We try to stay positive asking for money from the university and Student Government,” McAlear said. “I meet a lot with Student Government. There is a turnover every year. It puts us at a disadvantage, but we stay positive. Funding from EMU would be nice though.”

Gee said that in 2011 the hockey club received $21,000 in funds from student government. However in the 2012-2013 season, the hockey club didn’t receive any funding from student government.

EMU’s hockey club plays 40 to 42 games during the season, including playoffs, from September to March in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Gee said that unlike the NCAA, the ACHA does not offer athletic scholarship money and his players have to apply to FAFSA to pay for college just like any other college student.

“The Women’s Hockey Club started from scratch recently, generated some interest, but didn’t have enough numbers to skate,” McAlear said. “They asked student government for help in paying for ice time, but were denied.”

According to Title IX, if EMU decided to make the men’s hockey club into an NCAA program, they would have to make a women’s club sports team into an NCAA program as well.

Financially, this would be a burden that the university might not want to adopt.

McAlear said that making hockey into an NCAA sport would be a multimillion dollar investment on behalf of the university, but having their own ice rink would create a long-term source of revenue for the University through outside rentals to high school teams, other club teams and youth leagues.

Gee said that the hockey club doesn’t need to become an NCAA program and likes where his club is at now. He is simply asking for an agreement with the university in consistent funding for ice time, or travel expenses, for his self-serving hockey club.

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