UNI Athletics launches UNI FIGHT Initiative

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UNI Athletics

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

On Wednesday Sept. 16, the UNI Department of Athletics launched their UNI Fight Initiative in response to budget shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative is a project aimed at raising funds for the athletics department, which has been hit hard financially during the last year of the pandemic. The department projects a loss of about $2.5 million currently; however, that number is projected to rise dramatically with schedule changes, limited seating capacity and ticket sales and the expense of adding new safety measures in UNI facilities based off of rules and regulations of local and state policies. In order to offset some of the financial shortfalls, UNI staff and coaches have agreed to taking pay cuts along with incentive bonuses being suspended for the time being. UNI Athletics has also put in place a spending freeze and has left some positions vacant. In regards to the pay cuts of coaches and staff, UNI Director of Athletics David Harris noted a tough road ahead for UNI Athletics.

“We understand that these temporary reductions will be challenging for our staff and coaches, and we feel fortunate to have a team of staff members that understand the unprecedented situation that we face,” he said in July. “Our goals are to minimize the impact to our student-athletes, protect our human resources and emerge from this pandemic on strong fiscal footing.”

Despite all of these cost-cutting measures, the department still faces a significant loss for the upcoming year. The postponement of the fall sports season sees the department lose revenue from one of their largest money-makers: football. Despite the season likely being played this spring, the new health and safety measures from the state of Iowa which limits fan seating will be hard for many sports to offset the financial losses.

Harris sees the UNI Fight Initiative as a way to connect with Panther alumni and fans who want to help out with UNI student-athletes. The initiative has already received over $300,000 in the first phase of the process, with donations ranging from small donations to tens of thousands of dollars.

“UNI has a reputation of overcoming tough circumstances. We come together to accomplish tasks that seem impossible and this is one of the toughest circumstances that we have ever faced. Now is the time to do what we always do and come together to tackle the challenge,” Director of Athletics David Harris said in a press release following the announcement of the project. He says that so far, the response from UNI faithful has been tremendous.

“The response so far has been heartening. So many people have stepped up in a big way to get us started on very solid footing. I am thankful for everyone that has given. We have a long way to go to meet our goals and I know that Panther Nation will respond,” Harris added.

Donors will receive triple priority Panther Points, which can go towards parking at football games and other membership perks. But ultimately, the Department of Athletics wants to stress that the number one benefit of donating to the UNI Fight Initiative should be the knowledge that the money being donated is helping UNI Athletics, UNI student-athletes, coaches, staff and the university as a whole.