Interim athletic director returns to UWRF as budgets tighten across WIAC

Posted October 3, 2016

Crystal Lanning has returned to UW-River Falls on a two-year interim basis as director of athletics and she hopes to make it permanent.

Jobs like hers have come under some hard times as of late. The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) has lost six athletic directors in the past three years.

Lanning began her career at UWRF in 2004 as an assistant athletic trainer. Prior to taking a job with the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in 2015, she was the associate athletic director for UWRF. Lanning said that she had her sights set on a return to River Falls, just maybe not as quickly as it happened.

“Coming back to River Falls was always something I had in my long-term plans. It just happened a little sooner than I had expected,” Lanning said.

Roger Ternes, the former athletic director, made it public when he resigned that he was unhappy with the lack of resources available to him. He said staff and budget cuts were the biggest hurdles and he saw no end to that in the near future. Lanning said that to prove herself, money is going to be key.

“I think part of my responsibility in this role is looking for ways to bring in new revenue. It’s going to have to be creative,” Lanning said.

Lanning said she thinks that corporate sponsors and looking for new alumni and donors who haven’t necessarily given before is a good way to start a search for more money.

Some practices are already in place within the athletics office to cut down on costs. It has implemented a policy of no overnight travel to conference games. This is a practice that the WIAC put into place back in 2008, and has since revoked. But, most of the schools within the league still adhere to the practice.

WIAC Commissioner Gary Karner said he knows that all of the ADs at the Division III level have a tough job.

“Either the monetary resources, financial resources or personnel just aren’t there,” he said. “So athletic directors at our level really have to wear multiple hats.”

Karner’s WIAC office in Madison has experienced the same financial turmoil as its member institutions. It rarely holds in-person meetings with all the different sport committees to reduce travel costs. Staff size also has been trimmed.

“We have half the people we did 21 years ago in my office,” he said.

Karner is hopeful that the budget situation will eventually turn around. He still believes that the WIAC is a premier conference in the country. In the last 10 years, 46 national championships have been won by WIAC teams. Karner gives credit to the individuals at their respective schools for maintaining the high level of excellence in spite of the budget situation.

Along with the budget cuts, Lanning takes over the self-initiated Title IX audit. UWRF earlier this year commissioned a study of gender equity in its athletic program.

“Our challenge is actually doing something with the information once we get the final report,” Lanning said. “We have to prioritize how we can improve and we have to put together a plan to make steps toward progress,” said Lanning.

Lanning expects it to have the report within the next couple of weeks.