Northern Iowa, the program that gained prominence during the NCAA tournament due to its upset of Kansas and a daring shot by Ali Farokhmanesh, might soon run into a roadblock it cannot overcome -- a budget crunch.
That's the warning shot school president Ben Allen fired off in an interview with the Des Moines Register, going as far as to say that if money from the university's general fund is cut from athletics by much more than the approximately $200,000 proposed to be cut by 2015, UNI could lose its Division I status and even doing away with sports.
Trimming general fund support by much more than $200,000 would mean the university would seriously consider eliminating all sports at UNI because of lost revenue related to the loss of Division I status, Allen said in an interview with The Des Moines Register.
"I think we're pretty close to the edge of what we can cut and maintain competitiveness," he said.
Allen said deeper cuts would force UNI to eliminate enough programs that it would lose its Division I status. The school can cut one men's sport and two women's sports before losing its spot in the top division, he said.
That the Panthers program could go the way of the dodo bird would be stunning, and even if the president is just talking worst-case scenarios, the mere mention of canceling intercollegiate participation has to be troublesome for those involved.
It was only August when the same newspaper did the obligatory story on how the team's Sweet 16 run raised the profile of the school, with the number of prospective students' visits to campus rising and expected to lead to an increase in enrollment.
More tuition money means more money for that aforementioned general fund, but even back then, athletic director Troy Dannen was warning of economic troubles ahead.
Dannen said a magical March won't dispel the monetary realities of funding 17 sports programs on an annual budget of $11.8 million, especially as the Iowa Board of Regents asks universities to reduce or eliminate general fund subsidies to athletics.
"We could have run to the Final Four, and it would not have been an answer to the financial questions that exist," Dannen said. "Our fundraising is at record levels right now. And we certainly anticipate ticket sales to be at a record level when basketball starts. And there is some additional revenue that went along with the tournament appearance.
"But none of those things address the big picture, or solve anybody's financial woes."