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From the Desk of Athletic Director Chip Smith

July 19, 2010

As many of you may be aware, the 2010-2011 budget approved by the General Assembly has repealed earlier legislation that allowed UNC system institutions to waive the out of state portion of tuition for non-resident student-athletes who were receiving a full scholarships. At Western Carolina University this cost differential is approximately $9,600 for each student. For WCU Athletics, this totaled about $625,000 of our $2,400,000 scholarship budget for 2010 - 2011. The elimination of the waivers is effective immediately.

This presents a serious problem, in that those scholarship commitments have been made in good faith to hundreds of student-athletes. At this time, it is our intent to fulfill those promises. However, we must find ways to absorb this significant budget reduction, both this year and into the future.

In preparation for this possibility, I had developed a three-year plan that would allow us to meet this circumstance, beginning in the 2010-2011 academic year. Unfortunately, it has happened much more quickly. I have had conversations with the Chancellor and other administrators across campus, who fully understand the serious nature of Athletics' dilemma.

However, the difficult economy is not partial to any one sector of the institution. The university budget has been reduced significantly as well. There will be an increase in tuition for our students, which will also increase the cost of athletic scholarships. Interest rates are at near-historic lows and university endowments are not providing previous levels of spendable income.....we are all in this together.

I am working with others within and outside of the Athletic Department to develop a long range plan that will meet this very serious and, relatively, short-term challenge. Our options are somewhat limited because of our commitment to student-athlete welfare, NCAA Division I requirements, Southern Conference requirements and gender equity. We will map a reasoned course of action that will take us through this setback.

WCU Athletics has made much progress in the past several years. No one wants to slow the momentum we have built. Neither should we lower our standards or principles in overcoming this obstacle. The difficulty we face is as much a test of our commitment to the purpose of Western Carolina Athletics as it is a financial burden. That purpose is to produce educated and competent graduates who are good university citizens and positive influences in their communities. The Athletic Department staff is committed to that goal. On their behalf, and that of our 300 plus student-athletes, I ask for your support to help us overcome this setback and help Catamount Athletics become the program we know it can be.

Thank you - and Go Catamounts!

- Chip Smith

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