After a year-long review of its athletic programs, George Washington officials announced a five-year strategic plan intended to make its sports more competitive not only within the Atlantic 10 Conference but also nationally.
Most significantly — unlike the University of Maryland, which announced in November that it would be cutting eight teams — GW will spend more on athletics rather than cut back and will be adding a sport. Sailing will move from a club sport to a varsity program, giving the school 23 teams.
Randy Levine, a GW alumnus and trustee and president of the New York Yankees, chaired the committee that looked at all aspects of the school’s athletic programs.
“We found some pretty significant things,” Levine said. “Pretty significant in that I think you can trace some of our lack of winning and competitiveness to some of those things. . . . We were significantly underfunded as compared to other people in the Atlantic 10 and schools near us.”
According to the report, GW’s current operating budget ranked 13th out of 14 Atlantic 10 schools even though the school has the second-most number of sports in the conference. Only Temple, which has 24 varsity sports, fields more teams than GW.
The committee did consider cutting sports but in the end decided against it.
“The students that are involved in those sports are very important to the university and when you compare that to the amount of money you would save in the sports that you would even think of cutting, it wasn’t worth the sacrifice,” GW Athletic Director Patrick Nero said.
In order to bring its overall operating budget for intercollegiate athletics on par with the top-funded programs in the Atlantic 10, GW recognized it needed to generate more revenue. For the past decade, financial giving to GW athletics has been relatively flat.
To address this need, GW has created an athletic development office with a new senior executive director and five staff members and tasked it with ambitious fundraising goals. The report projects by the fifth year of operations, this office will increase current athletic fundraising totals by 500 percent.
“We do have a track record of investing in fundraising and seeing how successful that can be,” GW President Steven Knapp said. “Last year was our all-time record in fundraising across the university. . . . We do have a plan. We think we can afford that plan because we’ve worked it out in detail.”
The school also has signed an agreement with Nike, effective this summer, to provide apparel to all sports with equipment and apparel.
The increased funding will affect everything from increasing the per diem for road-trip meals for athletes to raising coaches’ salaries to bolstering recruiting budgets to increasing scholarship allotments.
“A Division I athlete in college sports today it’s a full-time job,” said Russell Ramsey, chairman of the GW Board of Trustees. “We owe them the ability, if they are going to really take on that responsibility, to have the resources to be competitive.”
According to Knapp, this plan will be a living document that will continually be utilized and updated.
“One thing that I’ve found in my years of academic administration, one thing I try to avoid, somebody does a report and it just gets dropped on the table and that’s it,” Knapp said. “You’ve got to build into your plan a plan for the continuing revisiting of the plan.”