The athletic department's financial upheaval is occurring just as the university is launching a $95 million campaign to build a state-of-the-art athletic complex.
Last year, at the urging of three of the department's most influential boosters -- state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), former governor Marvin Mandel and state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein (D) -- legislators for the first time agreed to state aid for the athletic program. They decided to allow the state to help pay for updating the sports facilities and building new ones, provided the university raised the rest of the money privately.
Most other Division I schools in the NCAA receive state funds. College Park President William E. Kirwan supported the idea of seeking state funds a year ago as a way to divorce college sports from the "all-consuming need to make money," but he said recently that he has no plans to do so.
Some boosters say state aid may be the only way to put the athletic department on firm ground financially. The alternative is to eliminate some sports, some scholarships or both.
Outgoing Athletic Director Lew Perkins contemplated abolishing some intercollegiate sports, but was rebuked by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and other political leaders, who said it would be wrong to deprive student-athletes in some sports just because the football and basketball teams have fallen on hard times.
Instead, Perkins cut scholarships way back in "non-revenue" sports.
"Underlying it all was the notion that if we decided to de-emphasize our major sports, that we would lose a lot of revenue," said former College Park chancellor Robert L. Gluckstern.
That is part of the reason there has been no retreat on building the new facilities.
Upgrading Byrd Stadium and Cole Field House are essential for long-term solvency, said Perkins, because good facilities attract good players and loyal fans. "There is no question that it's kind of a dilemma," Perkins said.