Marcum, money could do in Flint
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 2/26/2001

Bruiser Flint was tired when he reported for a head coaches meeting that had been called by UMass athletic director Bob Marcum last Wednesday morning.

The Minutemen had beaten Rhode Island in a late game (9:30 p.m. tipoff) the night before, and as such the UMass coach was five minutes late.

He didn't hear Marcum's opening comments - and the gist of what was going to be the AD's pitch for additional funding the next day during a meeting with the Board of Trustees' athletics committee.

So a colleague filled Flint in. Marcum, without his men's basketball coach in the room, informed the rest of his coaches that because the men's team had hit hard times, so had the department's budget.

Marcum, in pushing forward with his request for a reported $1.6 million in additional funding for the athletic program, has pointed to a number of inherent problems. This includes the university's expensive relationship with the company that manages the Mullins Center, the lack of an increase in student athletic fees, and the financial drain that comes from operating and supplying scholarships for 29 sports programs. The report also points a finger at the men's basketball team and, by association, its embattled coach.

Many believe that Marcum's presentation to the trustees last Thursday was also his first tangible step in building a case to fire Flint at the end of the season - an interpretation that Marcum vigorously disputed last night.

``You're 110 percent wrong,'' he said. ``It was forthright, honest and told the hard truth. (The Trustees) wanted an assessment of the athletic department, and we gave it to them.''

But the language in the report - which includes a chart drawing a connection between the decline in UMass Athletic Fund donors and the decline in season ticket sales - repeatedly draws a connection between a drop in revenues over the last five years and Flint's tenure as head coach over the same period.

Using the program's 1996 Final Four appearance and subsequent $1.8 million in revenue as an improbably high standard, Marcum has attempted to draw a consistent parallel.

Noting that the athletic fund lost a third of its 3,072 donors between 1996 and 2000, the report states, ``the fortunes of the UMAF correspond to those of men's basketball. After going to the Final Four, there were extremely high expectations for the team. Failure to meet those expectations has resulted in reduced interest in the program and has created a domino effect regarding tickets and contributions.''

Marcum faces a tough sell. At a time when most UMass officials and faculty are bemoaning the impending reality of a 10 percent across-the-board funding cut - a measure that will likely lead to the elimination of at least one varsity program, such as men's gymnastics - Marcum is shooting for the opposite.

He has refused to comment on Flint's status this season, instead deferring to the end of the season before making a judgment.

The 13-12 Minutemen are in Philadelphia today, putting their 11-3 conference mark on the line tomorrow night against first-place St. Joseph's in one of the most anticipated games of the Atlantic 10 season. Flint has done a remarkable job in turning the Minutemen's 2-9 start into an 11-3 run within the conference. And just like last year, support for the coach is once again swelling across campus.

Unfortunately for Flint, none of these successes are going to show up in a revenue column next month.

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