Statements by University of Nevada-Las Vegas officials that a steep admission fee may prevent the school from joining Western Athletic Conference expansion in 1996 are based on an erroneous belief that the fee is set, said the chairman of the WAC council of presidents.
"I think unfortunately there have been some statements made without full information . . . old information and information they did not accurately understand," Fresno State president John Welty said yesterday.The point of contention is a whopping $3 million admission fee - with a five-year, $600,000 annual payout - originally proposed in a June 8 letter from the WAC to the six prospective new members. The proposal has since been thrown out as unrealistic.
UNLV interim president Kenny Guinn, who could not be reached for comment, met with Welty on Wednesday. He said Thursday that UNLV, which is facing a $10.5 million athletic budget deficit, did not have the money and that the school's only hope for admission was to persuade the WAC to drop or lower the ante.
UNLV regent Shelley Berkley was quoted by The Associated Press as calling the fee "highway robbery," and the university's regents voted Thursday to accept WAC membership only on the condition that the fee be dropped.
That might not happen. But, said TCU chancellor William E. Tucker, Guinn's hope that the fee ante will be lowered is in the process of happening.
"The $3 million figure is not on the table as far as TCU is concerned," Tucker said. "If it were, it would give all of us some difficulty."
Tucker agreed in principle with the UNLV board member, agreeing the original proposal was "exorbitant." But he said that figure was struck down at last week's meeting between officials from the WAC and the four East quadrant members (TCU, SMU, Rice and Tulsa) and reiterated that the fee is a subject for continuing negotiation.
"I don't know what the situation is between UNLV and the WAC," Tucker said. "But I do know what TCU, SMU, Rice and Tulsa take to be the case. Those four institutions (and WAC officials) have agreed to work out a financial arrangement that will be acceptable to the present membership and not be onerous to the new members. And that's the size of it."
WAC commissioner-elect Karl Benson said earlier this week that new figures should be available by around July 15.
Welty said, "It's a matter of looking at various options to accomplish the goal we originally set out, which was to assure that current members would not be disadvantaged from revenue sharing contracts already in existence and that new members would begin revenue sharing immediately (upon admission)."
Officials at SMU, Rice and Tulsa joined Tucker in expressing belief that a compromise is forthcoming.
"From what I know (of last week's meeting), I'm optimistic an accord will be reached," said Paul Rogers, dean of SMU's law school and faculty representative to the Southwest Conference.
"I'm not concerned," Rice athletic director Bobby May said. "I think there will be a fair buy-in arranged. Everyone wants to get together."
Tulsa athletic director Chris Small said he, too, was surprised by UNLV's reaction.
"I'm surprised because apparently their regents are reacting to a situation that is no longer applicable," Small said. "But the feeling I get is that everyone is anxious to make this thing work.
"There are going to be some costs involved and Tulsa is prepared for that. What we are looking at is short-term cost invested for long-term benefit."