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New state law leaves Norfolk State with big hole in athletic budget

Norfolk State has been a Division I program for almost 20 years, but the school is still looking to find its financial footing as it heads into the 2016-17 athletic year.

Athletic Director Marty Miller sent out a letter on Monday asking supporters to help make up for a financial shortfall due to a new state law as “the Department of Athletics is confronted with a $3 million challenge to fully fund its program through other resources,” according to the letter.

Virginia’s HB 1897 limits the percentage that student fees may make up of a university’s athletic budgets.The bill was passed in March 2015, but did not go into effect into July 1. Norfolk State previously funded 80 percent of it’s athletics budget through student fees, but the new bill sets that limit at 70 percent for Division I FCS schools.

NSU charged $1,545 in student athletic fees at the time the bill was signed, third behind Virginia Military Institute and William and Mary, but above Old Dominion and James Madison.

Miller’s letter encouraged alumni and supporters to buy season tickets, join an athletic booster club and attend home games as well as simply donating to the department.

It also outlined what the athletic department has done, including adding live music to improve tailgate atmosphere, scheduling games with old CIAA rivals, and keeping the Labor Day Classic alive.

Last year the football team started the season with three-straight “money games” against FBS opponents. A game against former CIAA rival Elizabeth City State will kick off football season this year, and games against in-state FCS opponents Richmond and William and Mary mean that the team will leave Virginia just three times in the regular season.

It’s been almost 20 years since Norfolk State joined NCAA Division I after leaving the CIAA. While it’s unlikely that they’ll go the Winston-Salem State route and go back to Division II, it is apparent that with college athletics becoming more expensive ever year, NSU will have to do something to stay afloat.

“Your commitment to join us will strengthen our ability to successfully continue to compete in Division I athletics and achieve  local and national success,” Miller said in closing.

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