Senior Ben Rankin, represents the Lehigh club squash team competing in nationals. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be funding issues for club programs. (Courtesy of Max Fern)

Club sports could potentially face funding issues in 2020-2021

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Lehigh director of club sports Jane Josephson sent a letter to multiple club sports teams informing them that there may be funding issues in the next academic year. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many club programs may face funding issues. As of now, it is too early to determine whether or not there will be financial problems, Josephson said, but it is something that clubs need to be aware of so they can start planning for the future of their team. 

“The university has not said anything of the sort,” Josephson said. “Matt, our assistant director, and I are the ones that said that they should always plan as if there was no funding because you never know what can happen year to year.”

Max Fern, ‘22, captain of the club squash team, said he received an email from Josephson telling him to expect that no club team will receive funding.

Although the letter may cause some concern, most club programs have established an endowment that will help save their club in case there is no funding. Fern said they had built a $4,000 endowment, and usually, the university would supply each club with an $1,800 gift.

Fern said funding issues will not have a significant impact on his team, but for clubs that are just starting off, this presents a larger issue. Even with their fallback plan, Fern is afraid that all the work people have done to establish the squash program will be for nothing, and it will become a “thing of the past.” 

Fern and some of the past captains for the squash program have set aside time to reach out to Lehigh alumni for their support. Their season can get costly as they travel to nationals, causing them to have to spend money on hotels.

“For us, the loss of a gift will not have too much of an impact, because of the endowment we built, but for clubs that are just starting off, it is a problem,” Fern said. “My friend is actually on the basketball club team that just started and they are really going to struggle.”

Josephson also said that the majority of clubs supply their funding through dues members pay, and the student-allotted money only supports certain areas of the club. As far as Josephson’s letter goes, she said it was a heads-up to the programs that they should prepare not to receive funding, but it is not entirely out of the question.

Not all club teams have received the letter, however, as some club sports seasons were canceled due to the pandemic before they had to expend their budget.

“I haven’t heard anything yet about possibly not receiving funding,” said men’s club lacrosse captain Jared Gelber, ‘21.“As far as I know from the club sports directors, things are still on track to be played out as normal regarding the men’s club lacrosse budget.”

Gelber said that if funding was an issue, he knows that a lot of guys on the team would be upset because it would result in higher dues. But the bigger problem would be for programs that had a full season this year and will not receive a gift next year.

As far as the worries go for the upcoming year, Josephson stressed that the club sports office has no idea what is going to happen yet. Josephsen said the university is dealing with an assortment of issues right now because of the pandemic, and club sports is only one of those many concerns. 

If there is no funding provided by the university, it may become the survival of the fittest in the club sports community. Either individuals will have to pay higher dues if there is no endowment built up, or the club will need to reevaluate its future.

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