Livengood, UNLV brace for cuts in state funding


Only a month into his job as UNLV's athletic director, Jim Livengood is living out of a hotel until he can complete his relocation from Tucson, Ariz.

Not that there is much time to go house hunting.

Livengood constantly is on the move, meeting with donors daily as well as closely examining the athletic department's finances while under the cloud of potential cuts in state funds.

But sitting in his office this week at the Thomas & Mack Center, Livengood didn't seem overburdened. He acknowledged the dire economic situation that has slammed schools across the nation, but this is a man who kept Arizona in the black for 16 years without the benefit of state funds, and he isn't ready to fold up his hands.

"This is a really good time for this institution," Livengood said. "It's a really good time for athletics."

UNLV supporters have noted his enthusiasm.

"I think he's done an amazing job already," said Steve Schorr, Cox Communications vice president of public and government affairs. "I have great hope for the entire athletic program. I think he has his eye on the entire UNLV athletic effort."

Chuck Davison, past president of the UNLV Football Foundation, said Livengood approached him twice before Wednesday's basketball game against San Diego State and once at the game itself to set up a meeting.

"My early impression is I like him a lot," Davison said. "He's very enthusiastic.

"I'm very enthusiastic about what he wants to bring to the table."

But accomplishing much in this economy won't be easy, even with about a $600,000 boost in bowl money expected, most of it from Texas Christian's appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.

UNLV's $24 million athletic budget took a $1.1 million cut in state funds for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Each sport reduced its operating budget from 10 to 12 percent.

Now UNLV looks warily to an expected special legislative session. The athletic department could absorb another $300,000 to $400,000 in cuts, forcing tough choices. One option would be eliminating a sport, but Livengood said that would be a worst-case scenario.

A $750,000 payday for the football team's Oct. 9 game at West Virginia will help the financial picture, but Livengood prefers avoiding big-money matchups in favor of home-and-home series.

There is no doubt, though, football will play a big role in the UNLV's financial future. The Rebels have not been to a bowl since 2000, but the school hopes new coach Bobby Hauck will revitalize the program, which would be crucial to the bottom line.

"We have to turn the football (program)," Livengood said. "There's a lot of potential out there that could help not just football but could help out Olympic sports as well."

He isn't simply waiting, however, for the football program to start producing victories. Livengood said the facilities would be evaluated, and a "strategic" plan for the future must be developed. A capital campaign also is on the horizon.

Livengood said the early meetings with supporters have been encouraging.

"People have been phenomenal," he said. "They've been very pro-UNLV. They want to help."

And, he said, so do people inside the athletic department.

"There are really good people here," Livengood said, adding he preferred "accentuating those things that we do have and not worry so much about those things we don't have."

But, he quickly added, "Now we need to get things."

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914.

 

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