UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo wasn’t hard to find at the Bulldogs men’s hockey game on Friday night. Here’s our Q & A on a few subjects Bulldogs:
Howie: The state of Bulldogs Athletics?
Josh: “I think we’re in a really strong position. In the last five years, 14 of our 16 programs have advanced to the NCAA tournament and we’ve had some successes behind the scenes with facility renovations, fundraising and sponsorship and just tremendous support from our community. We really appreciate the support that helps us do as much as we do for our student-athletes. And academically, we just had our second-best semester all-time with a 3.26 GPA for this fall of 2019. And our community volunteerism is at record levels as well. So we’re excited about what we’re accomplishing competitively, but also academically and socially and incredibly appreciative of what the community does for the Bulldog student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
Howie: How’s UMD Athletics doing financially?
Josh: “Yeah, we finished a little bit in the black for the last fiscal year, 2018-19. We’re not quite where we’d like to be with our scholarship funding. So we’re looking to grow that with philanthropy. I think our budget is strong, but certainly with our objectives and our goals, there are areas we want to make it stronger. As part of the university we have to navigate any budgetary initiatives, and at times we have to make the allocations and on occasion cuts. But the support of this community has enabled us to navigate some things and have some small incremental strategic growth. For example, take some of our facility projects like Romano (Gymnasium) where the university invested in the infrastructure, but we came in with private dollars from donors and sponsors and put in a video board, improved our lower level seating, and became more accessible, more comfortable and more inclusive. We have to continue to change and evolve our philosophy of budgets and college athletics and work harder than ever to generate revenue and philanthropy in efforts to reach our goals and grow.”
Howie: How ’bout the other recent athletic facilities improvements on campus?
Josh: “We’re seeing a lot of facility improvements, which is very important for our student-athletes and fans. You’ll continue to see even more facility improvements. We’ve been fortunate to renovate Romano and our indoor field house, which is so important for our student-athletes who practice in there so much, particularly given that we are north of the 45th parallel. Baseball and softball practice are almost underway and they’ll spend a lot of time in there getting ready along with our track teams. There’s also the turf at Malosky (Stadium) for football, soccer and softball use on occasion, along with the beautiful outdoor track.”
Howie: Will UMD be adding or deleting any men’s and women’s sports offerings in the future, and what opportunities lie ahead?
Josh: “I think our number at 16 is very healthy for us — 400 student-athletes and 16 varsity programs with 12 head coaches. It’s a good place to be. We’re not looking to add, we’re not looking to contract. We’re are looking to grow our scholarships on the Division II side, so that we can empower our teams to be even more successful. And I think you’re going to continue to see some trends from Division I with student-athletes and their opportunities to succeed. You always want to get better and that’s winning more, improving academically and giving back even more in the community. You can never become complacent because as soon as you do, you risk losing some of the advantages of success you have. So it’s about keeping our foot on the gas and continuing to strive to be the best Division I/Division II hybrid in the country. And I really believe with the strength of our hockey programs and the broad base success of our Divison II programs, we can be that.”
ST. LOUIS COUNTY
Teamsters begin strike; County responds
St. Louis County Public Works supervisors, along with other licensed and qualified staff from other divisions and departments, are behind the wheel of snow plows and other equipment as employees from the Highway Maintenance Division – members of Teamsters Local 320 – took to the picket line.
“We hoped this action could have been avoided,” said County Administrator Kevin Gray. “Nevertheless, snow is falling and public safety remains our top priority, so we have implemented our contingency plans to plow the roads.”
The county also has activated a strike information page on its website to provide up-to-date information on the strike situation, the county’s contingency plans, and maps to show how roads are prioritized for plowing based on average traffic volume. That information can be found at stlouiscountymn.gov.
The county’s last best final offer for a contract covering 2020-22 included base wage increases and other incentives totaling 10.5% to 12.5% over three years.
Additionally, the county agreed to the union’s request to allow the bargaining unit to elect to leave the county’s self-insured health plan in the future with an employer contribution equal to that provided to employees covered by its own self-insured health plan.
The sticking point seems to be the sick leave accrual cap. Currently, employees hired since 2013 can earn up to 1,150 hours of sick leave, the equivalent of more than six months paid sick leave, which can be converted to a health saving account upon retired.
The county rejected the union’s request of a maximum 1,500 hour payout upon retirement due to the high price tag. The estimated of this demand for Teamster members alone is $1.5 million, and to extend that increase to all employees, which would be a likely expectation, would create a potential $18.5 million taxpayer liability for future payout costs.
“It is disheartening that the situation came to this,” said Gray. “The county was aggressive in making a solid offer that is responsive to many Teamster demands, so it’s heartbreaking to see our highway maintenance workers on the picket line, knowing the impact on them and their families; and it’s frustrating because of the impact on our citizens and our employees in other bargaining units.”
St. Louis County Public Works is responsible for maintaining 3,000 miles of roads, spanning from Duluth to the Canadian border.
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