Haskell University athletic programs are making do with less, but the Indians aren't settling for less.
Haskell's athletic budget is less than half what it used to be, but the school's goals are as lofty as ever.
"If I had one wish," said Gary Tanner, the Indians' head football coach for eight seasons, "it would be that Haskell football would be given a chance for the people of Lawrence to come out and see some good athletes. And we're getting better athletes every year.
"We're getting those first-team all staters," Tanner said. "I just wish we could get the respect and interest. We want to be part of the community."
Whatever success the Indians have, however, must be accomplished much more frugally than in the past.
In 1970, according to athletic director Jerry Tuckwin, Haskell's athletic budget was approximately $200,000, including $96,000 for football, $50,000 for basketball and $36,000 for track and cross country.
"Now we're talking about more than $100,000 less than that," Tuckwin said.
The Indians' budget now, not counting coaches' salaries, varies between $75,000 and $80,000.
"And that's including physical education, a wellness program and athletics," Tuckwin said.
The Indians currently compete in football, men's and women's basketball, and men's and women's track and cross country.
They formerly competed in volleyball, golf, tennis, wrestling and baseball. But those sports have been dropped over the past few years.
"Because of budget constraints, we've had to cut back," Tuckwin acknowledged.
But even as the Indians are cutting back, they're looking to expand. Haskell officials say it's only a matter of time until its current junior college teams are transformed into four-year programs.
"We definitely are looking at that right now," Tuckwin said. "We have only the elementary education program as a four-year program right now. When we get other programs into the bachelor's degree program, then we will probably consider going to a four-year athletic program."
Tanner, for one, can't wait.
"I'm kind of excited about the option of going to a four-year program," Tanner said, "because on the whole, we're finding that our Indian athletes seem to be about a year or two from reaching their potential level.
"It's going to happen," Tanner predicted. "It just depends on how long it takes them to get enough four-year degrees so that we could hold kids here for four years."
Tuckwin agrees. He estimated that by the year 2005, Haskell would be competing on a four-year level.
"I really think, at the distant end, within 10 years we'll be going to some four-year athletic programs," Tuckwin said. "That would be a goal for us. We haven't explored any possibilities as far as any leagues. I'm sure we'd go into NAIA, but that's just conjecture on may part."
Haskell is planning the addition of women's softball on a club basis. But because of budget considerations, volleyball had to be eliminted last season. Golf has been gone since 1988, tennis since 1984, baseball since 1981.
"We'd still like to have those programs," Tuckwin said. "You're cutting programs that people could be playing in. It's not an easy decision. But it's not that hard because you just look at your finances."
Men's basketball coach Walt Wilson, in his 13th season at Haskell, was originally hired to coach baseball. But because of some bad luck -- in the form of bad weather -- he never had the chance.
"They were going to start a baseball team back up," recalled Wilson, who is in the second season of his third stint as men's basketball coach. "They hadn't played in about six years prior to that, and they wanted to restart it.
"We got it started, and it looked like everything was going to be great," Wilson said. "We had five all-starters come in, and we had four or five more already committed."
It wasn't lack of talent that killed Haskell baseball. It was lack of sun.
"That spring was the worst spring in the 13 years that I've been here," Wilson said. "It snowed and it snowed and it snowed. We were supposed to start in Oklahoma, and it was snowed out. We were through half the season and hadn't played a game. Had not played a game."
A total of 29 games were either rained out or snowed out.
"Because of funding," Wison said, "and that bad weather, they decided to drop the program. We hadn't played to that point, and they thought, 'Well, you're halfway through the year and haven't played a game. We might as well call it off right here.' It's a shame."
Like Tuckwin, Wilson would like to see baseball brought back.
"That could be one of our better sports today," Wilson said. "There's been talk (of restarting baseball), and there's always a lot of interest among the students. But because of funds, mostly, and partly because of the weather and partly because of facilities, it's never really happened."
The Indians were scheduled to play at Ice Field during their baseball season that never was.
Haskell did reinstate a wrestling team for half a season in 1991. Tanner, who wrestled on Haskell's last full-season wrestling team in 1976, was head coach.
"I recruited athletes for both football and wrestling," Tanner said. "It was tough for them to do both and it was tough for me to coach both."
Without an increase in funding, however, it's doubtful Haskell will see the return of the dropped sports.
"We have to find different avenues to get other funds," Tuckwin said. "We do have a Haskell Foundation now. We've got our new gym floor leased from Kemper Arena. We're hoping we can purchase it if we get the right price.
"The Kansas City Chiefs donated a little money to us this fall," Tuckwin noted. "And we're in the process of getting a grant from the Kauffman Foundation. It would be used for a program for our student-athletes and their academics."
Haskell's football budget is currently $20,000.
"That includes everything," Tanner said. "Recruiting, correspondence, mail, travel, equipment, buses, officials, amblance services. It includes everything except the coaches salaries -- and I'm real thankful for that."
Despite the budget concerns, Tuckwin says he's "optimistic" about the future of Haskell athletics, and the Indians' coaches agree.
"I don't know where else in the world I'd rather go," Tanner said. "We have a few problems here, but everyone has problems. I enjoy being around these students."
Adds women's basketball coach Phil Homeratha, who has worked at Haskell since 1971: "Here, it goes beyond the love of coaching sports. To guys like Jerry Tuckwin and me, Haskell is almost a home."