A state legislator presented — then quickly withdrew — a proposal Wednesday that would have severely limited travel for college athletic teams in Louisiana.
Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, said his intention was to make a point about spending.
“We don’t know what the priorities of this state are,” he said. “Every day it changes, and we have limited dollars.”
He gave a quick presentation to bring attention to spending on college athletics, then dropped his bill before pursuing a vote or hearing testimony from any outside parties.
Carter’s House Bill 971, which now has no path to passage after its brief initial hearing, carved out an exemption for LSU, which has a profitable athletic program that isn’t subsidized by state funding.
But for all other colleges, all teams in programs except football and basketball would be banned from traveling more than 375 miles for competitions, unless competing in a championship or the opposing team pays all travel costs.
“Some of them travel to California, Tennessee, Georgia and many other states,” Carter said before backing away from the bill.
The state faces a $600 million shortfall in the budget that begins July 1, which has threatened to end Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships for thousands of students.
Louisiana colleges already have faced historic cuts, and the repeated threat of even deeper slashing, to state funding in the past decade.
Carter said the money used to subsidize teams through state funding, student fees and other funds could be better spent on academic efforts. Carter, who said he used to be a tennis coach, also argued that many athletes in the smaller sports are not from Louisiana, so the subsidies are benefitting out-of-state students more than in-state.
“Athletics is athletics, and people want to compete against the best, but I’m looking at deferred maintenance and TOPS,” he said.
A special report from The Advocate earlier this year found that most of Louisiana’s universities spent what amounts to between 5 percent and 9 percent of their entire budgets to subsidize athletics. Carter said that story inspired him to consider legislation.
Carter said he realized some deep problems with his bill. For one thing, it would have barred some teams from traveling even within their own conferences. For example, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette baseball team would not have been able to travel to its series against Georgia Southern last month if that were law.
“The bill isn’t perfect,” Carter said. “I’m just trying to make a point on priorities.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp.
For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .