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Dalton State Athletics Seeks Financial Sustainability

Dalton State College will scale back its intercollegiate athletics program due to budget shortfalls, cutting up to four sports teams from its 10-team roster in order to achieve financial sustainability, according to Interim Athletic Director Jon Jaudon. The discontinued teams have not yet been determined, pending numerous considerations still under review. 

“The College’s program of intercollegiate athletics grew from seven sports to 10 sports in three years, and there are not sufficient financial resources to sustain 10 sports,” he said. “Our financial model is upside down with 65 percent of support coming from private donations and only 35 percent coming from predictable revenue sources. This model is unsustainable. The funds that were generated for athletics start-up have been exhausted; we need to right-size the department to one we can afford and sustain.”

Men’s basketball, the College’s flagship sports team, will not be eliminated.

“We need for the majority of our support to come from predictable sources of revenue such as student fees and ticket sales, plus corporate and individual giving,” he said. “The support of our community in our early years has been overwhelming, and we remain grateful for that generosity, but we cannot rely on a few large annual donations to cover basic operating expenses each year.”

“Our athletic program is a vital part of this institution, and we are committed to its continuation,” said President Margaret Venable. “It is one of the many things I hope will ensure that we achieve our vision of becoming a first-choice destination college. The contribution of athletics to the vibrancy of our campus and community cannot be overstated. We want to preserve as many sports teams as we can while also operating a program we can afford to maintain.

“We deeply regret having to take this action as we know how disruptive it will be to athletes, coaches, families, and fans, but at this point we have no choice,” she said. “We will make decisions in time for athletes wishing to transfer after this academic year to do so, and we will also work with athletes who wish to remain at Dalton State to finish out their degrees.”

The program’s financial woes first came to light during a routine Presidential Transition Audit ordered by the University System of Georgia following the appointment of Venable as president last year. A deeper dive into the books revealed the weakness of the financial model and the fact that most of the start-up funds had been depleted prior to the timetable originally associated with those monies. Jaudon joined the department as Interim Athletic Director on July 1 after a search for a fulltime AD was suspended in light of financial shortfalls.

“We will spend this year evaluating and retooling, and I ask for your patience and continued support for the College, for athletics, for our student athletes, and for our interim athletic director during this transition process,” Venable said, adding that she hopes to know by December or January what sports teams will be discontinued. In addition to costs associated with each sport, the athletic program mix must be taken into consideration to ensure the College is meeting Title IX requirements for equitable opportunities for students and staff. The NAIA and Southern States Athletic Conference likewise have program requirements that must be considered.

“This is a serious matter,” Venable said. “We have been made aware of the issues and are moving expeditiously to resolve them. Our first priority is to preserve the fiscal integrity of Dalton State College while rebuilding a healthy and sustainable athletics program that will meet the needs of athletes and fans and contribute to the overall mission of the College.”