Improved revenue prospects and a commitment to reducing unnecessary expenditures will enable Oregon State University to eliminate its recurring athletic deficit over the next six years, OSU athletic department officials said.

"We've taken a hard look at the way we do business and have come up with a workable plan to balance our operating accounts," said Mark McCambridge, interim vice president for finance and administration. "It means we'll need to do things differently and tighten our belt. But we're optimistic about what can be done."

OSU's athletic department has struggled with a recurring deficit since the mid-1980s. The debt has ranged from about $2 million to $5.7 million, the current figure. Rising costs for all sports and declining attendance in two major sports programs has contributed to the financial problem, officials say.

"We needed to meet gender-equity goals for our student-athletes and we have added to our deficit over the past couple of years," said Lee Schroeder, interim athletic director. "We knew we had to make critical investments in personnel. Those investments have helped us gain full NCAA accreditation and upgrade our programs. Now we need to operate in ways that are more efficient, and we need to erase the deficit."

To do that, Schroeder said the OSU athletic department began analyzing its fiscal operations last spring with the help of an independent consultant. The analysis led to the development of the new plans, which will cut about $653,000 from the $17 million spent last year, and cut another $1 million from expenditures in 1998.

Anticipated cost savings will be attained by reducing expenditures for temporary and part-time personnel, seeking economies in travel and off-season expenses, and paring administrative support costs.

"We also expect improved revenues in our major sports, and additional revenue from new contracts negotiated by the Pac-10 Conference," Schroeder said.

"That new money will go directly toward reducing the deficit," Schroeder said.

OSU also has brought in new leadership in football and men's basketball - the major revenue-producing sports - and both programs are showing improvements.

"It won't be easy, but we must continue to make changes," Schroeder said. "The challenge for OSU is to become more competitive in a very competitive athletic conference and to be especially efficient in our fiscal management. And now we have a plan to do that."

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Mark McCambridge, 541-737-2447