Rams Club faces state budget cuts

The North Carolina state budget cuts couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Rams Club.

A month after UNC’s Board of Trustees approved the booster club’s $70 million expansion of Kenan Stadium, the recent legislation cut in-state funding for out-of-state scholarship student-athletes at all 16 UNC-system universities, with UNC bearing the brunt of these cuts.

The Rams Club, UNC’s booster club, fronts the scholarship money for all 450-plus student athletes. Of those, roughly 150 are out-of-state students.

Last year, the club funded $8.2 million in scholarship money for student athletes — more than twice the cost of 12 years ago. In-state tuition at UNC will be $4,066, while out-of-state will be $21,954 this fall.

“Prior to the change in legislation, the number was $8.2 million that Rams Club donors would fund,” associate director of athletic communications Steve Kirschner said. “Now that legislation is not there, the Rams Club will have to fund another couple million dollars. We’re certainly going to stand by those commitments.”

Rough estimates from the change in legislation means the Rams Club will have to make up for $2.68 million, but cutting the five-year-old subsidy will save the state $9 million.

Annual goals for the Rams Club this academic year include raising $11 million in donations. Donations of $100 or more are primarily used for athletic scholarships, according to the Rams Club website.

Bobby Purcell, executive director of N.C. State’s Wolfpack Club, believes the budget cuts will take away top talent from other states.

“I’m very concerned about what it will do to us, but I’m particularly concerned with what it will to do the smaller schools in the system,” Purcell said.

Thurlis Little, athletic director at UNC-system school Elizabeth City State University, said the new legislation will affect the 20 out-of-state student athletes of the 182 at Elizabeth City State.

“Right now we have to find out the logistics,” Little said. “If they’ve totally been cut, what happens to those kids already on those scholarships that are returnees? Will they be grandfathered in? Those logistics I don’t know yet.”

ECSU does not have a booster club and receives its money from funds from its athletic conference, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The new legislation will definitely make scholarship money harder to find, Little said.

“We have commitments to these student athletes,” Little said. “As the state has dropped that (legislation), we are not in a position where we can arbitrarily drop these student athletes.”

UNC-Pembroke has been able to fund only five out-of-state athletes during the last two years. The school has the lowest out-of-state enrollment in the UNC system.

Athletic director Dan Kenney said his booster club will need to fund the extra $55,000 necessary for the athletes to play for the Braves.

“These are difficult times,” Kenney said. “I’ve told our coaches the rules of funding higher education are changing. You just have to adapt.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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