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As the new fiscal year begins, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic department is having to cut new holes in its budget belt, which keeps getting tighter.

The 2009-10 fiscal year begins today and UTC's projected budget for the next 12 months is $8,007,071 -- down $248,029 from last year. A budget is a "living, breathing thing," associate athletic director Matt Pope said, so the numbers could change, just as they did last year when about $60,000 was cut midyear.

"This is something that throughout the year we're going to have to monitor and adjust," athletic director Rick Hart said. "We've been really careful to try to be strategic (about the cuts)."

As a result of statewide cuts during the current economic crisis, the university's contribution to athletics is down $438,229 -- from $3,358,143 to $2,919,914. Some of that deficit will be negated by a projected $106,000 increase in revenue from the student athletic fee, and Pope said that number could go higher due to increased enrollment.

At present, the Mocs' projected expenditures for the fiscal year are $8,021,471, so Pope said an additional $14,400 will have to be cut. He said those cuts will likely come from the administrative budget.

The biggest cut within the athletic department was in marketing and promotions, which had its part cut $62,517 to $140,964. The bulk of that was in the elimination of a staff position after associate athletic director Andrew Horton moved over to the athletic development office.

Another $49,276.08 was cut from the administration budget after the decision was made not to hire a replacement for Hart's executive assistant, Pat Medearis, who retired in December. In addition, UTC was able to cut $30,000 from its football debt service, the money it is having to pay back to the state on Finley Stadium's debt.

"Before we went to any sport, we tried to strategically eliminate or reduce costs administratively," Hart said.

While UTC tried to limit the effect of the cuts on the Mocs' 17 sports, all will feel a significant pinch. They all received a 10 percent cut to their travel and recruiting budgets.

For football, which had the largest recruiting budget at $40,000, that's a $4,000 hit. On the lower end of the scale, men's golf, tennis, track/cross country and wrestling all had meager recruiting budgets of $1,500, so their cut was $150 each.

"The recruiting budget's probably the biggest thing we can't overcome (compared to the top programs in the country)," men's golf coach Mark Guhne, whose team was ranked No. 1 in the nation at one point last season, said in May of the recruiting challenges his program faces.

UTC announced Monday that it had finished 99th in the Learfield Sports Director's Cup standings, which rates the Division I programs nationally based on performance in NCAA championships. It was UTC's highest finish ever and came during the 2008-09 fiscal year in which from start to finish -- $178,000 heading into the fiscal year and $60,000 during it -- the athletic department had to cut $240,000 from its budget.

UTC was the only Southern Conference school in the top 100, and its budget of $8,255,100 was surely among the smallest of the schools on the list.

"I think there's a little bit of pride in knowing that we got there, we achieved success and took a more difficult path (financially) than some of the other schools," Hart said.

The Mocs will have to do the same in the year ahead.

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