Eastern Michigan appears to have turned the corner financially. (Photo courtesy EMU Athletics)

After call to disband or drop football, Eastern Michigan turns financial corner

A year ago, a faculty report presented to the Eastern Michigan Board of Regents recommended the school should drop out of NCAA Division I and FBS as well as find another conference for all sports to save the students money.

It's a good thing these sorts of moves take time. EMU has turned a financial corner.

"Fiscal year 2017 will be a record year in athletics, I'm confident in that," Dan McLean, EMU's associate athletic director for development, said recently at an athletic affairs meeting. Greg Steiner, associated AD for media relations at EMU confirmed the school is on pace for a record-setting year. The complete financial picture won't be complete until the fiscal year ends later this year.

According to the Eastern Echo, an independent newspaper on campus and in the Ypsilanti, Mich., community, wrote:

A major reason contributing to Eastern Michigan University’s increase in revenue is that the school has simply been drawing a larger home crowd, as football had a 26 percent increase in attendance at home games this past season, going from an average of 3,532 people per game in 2015 to 4,398 people per game in 2016. Eastern Michigan sold 560 season tickets this past season, a 44 percent from the 2015 season, and the most since the 2003 season. The exposure value of playing in the Bahamas Bowl was valued at $6,215,000, per Joyce Julius & Associates, INC. The athletics department looks to remain on track to having the highest grossing year in school history as spring sports will soon be underway.

In addition, a series of cost-saving measures and increased fund raising have helped. According to MLive.com, in 2015 an institutional subsidy of $27.3 million was moved to athletics, equally about $1200 per year per student.

A successful season on the football field certainly helped.

Last April, HBO’s “Real Sports” aired a segment that used Eastern Michigan as a prime example of FBS programs operating at a financial deficit. That was soon followed by Eastern Michigan’s faculty and student leadership issuing a joint report asking that EMU either needed to eliminate football or drop to a lower division for economic reasons.

“The players were disappointed by the fact some people wanted to do away with football,” said Matt Shepard, the Eastern Michigan radio network play-by-play voice for 16 seasons. “They were energized by the support they got from the regents and the athletic department. It’s fair to say it sort of served as a rallying point.

“There was an us-against-the-world mentality, sort of bunkering down and the players having each other’s backs.”

Eastern Michigan’s board of regents issued an open letter of full support for the athletic department and the football team.

“I don’t think it affected our players as much as people thought,” Creighton told the Detroit Free-Press. “They believed and trusted us that football wasn’t going anywhere. We were good, in terms of the team. But when it becomes national news, it’s brutal on recruiting. Absolutely brutal. Honestly, I think it affected our staff, in terms of recruiting, more than our team.”

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