St. Mary's College of Maryland might not continue funding Governor's Cup yacht race

By Jesse Yeatman
The Enterprise
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 11:59 PM

St. Mary's College of Maryland administrators are scrutinizing some of the college's auxiliary expenses - including funding for the Governor's Cup yacht race, SlackWater journal and River Concert Series - to see how, and whether, the college can continue to fund the programs.

Next August's Governor's Cup, a sailboat race from Annapolis to St. Mary's City, could be the last, said Chip Jackson, associate vice president for planning and facilities. The annual race has taken place for 37 years.

This year, the race cost about $72,000 to organize, with $54,000 in revenue going back to the college. The college absorbed the roughly $18,000 deficit, Jackson said. Costs for the race include a dinner, overtime for staff, music, tent rentals, a paid boat tender and awards. Participants in the race pay a fee of $75.

"What can you do? We don't have the solution yet," Jackson said, adding that the race in "2011 is a certainty. We're not going to cancel 2011."

The annual race's popularity has waned since its heyday in the mid-1980s when about 400 boats raced; this year's race drew about 120 entrants, Jackson said. The Governor's Cup also takes place at a less-than-ideal time - two weeks before the start of the fall semester, interrupting college staff as they prepare for students' return, Jackson said.

Spending college money on a program such as the cup is no longer an option, said Joseph Urgo, president of St. Mary's College. "No one thinks it's appropriate we spend education funds on it," Urgo said Dec. 6.

In remarks two days earlier, during a college trustee meeting, Urgo said the institution has received good support from the state of Maryland.

"Still, with a long view forward in mind, there are actions we are taking now to help insure our viability and to make us more attractive to those with the means to support our mission," he said. Those actions will lead to a sustainable economic model for the college, Urgo said, and include reviewing the college's budget and setting financial priorities.

Since becoming the college's president last summer, Urgo has directed financial staff members to look at all auxiliary programs, including the popular River Concert Series, which each summer features live outdoor music performed before thousands of visitors.

"Right now, it looks as if it's breaking even," Urgo said of the concert series.

The series costs more than $400,000 per year but has an active fundraising element and draws a number of large sponsorships.

"I don't think it's in any danger," Urgo said.

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