Despite a $41 million budget gap projected for the University of Connecticut’s next fiscal year, the school continues to spend over $71 million a year on athletics, according to university financial documents.
UConn increased athletics institutional funding in 2014 to $17 million, even though ticket sales have not yet recovered from the levels they reached since UConn left the Big East conference for the American Athletic Conference.
UConn Chief Financial Officer Scott Jordan said the school is paying the bills and making sure expenses are met that are not covered by ticket sales and broadcast deals.
Tickets to live games are harder to sell with increased broadcast over the internet, Jordan said, even when UConn’s sports teams, especially basketball, continue to excel. He said this is a problem that many live sports enterprises face.
“As a new conference, it just does not have the relationship with ESPN yet,” Jordan said.
He is confident sales will increase in the future as the league becomes more established.
According to the documents, which were provided by the Huffington Post, almost $10 million from student fees goes toward athletics every year. This represents nearly 30 percent of the General University Fee, a $2,882 expense that every full-time UConn student pays. This amounts to almost $3,500 going towards athletics per student over four years at UConn.
Student Health Services is the only other part of campus to receive as much of the General University Fee. The remaining 40 percent is divided among 10 other services such as the Student Union, Student Activities and Parking and Transportation, according to a breakdown from the Bursar’s Office.
Institutional funding to athletics is paid out of money UConn receives from what Jordan called auxiliary expenses, or funds that are not associated with tuition or academics.
“We do segregate tuition and state tax money,” Jordan said. “Those two sources are only used for academic purposes.”
A large part of athletic expenses is financial aid for students, Jordan said, which accounted for about $12.4 million in 2014, up from about $11 million in 2013. Athletics is the only department that counts student aid scholarships as an expense. This expense will continue to go up as tuition rises to enable athletes to play for UConn, Jordan said.
As costs for athletics rise as UConn announced an increase in tuition to close a $40.2 million budget gap. This is reflected in a proposed tuition increase of 31 percent over the next four years.
“Students should expect an environment where state funding is decreasing,” Jordan said. “The university should be tightening its belt across the board.”
According to Jordan, athletics cut about $1.5 million in expenses last year.
At a presentation to the Undergraduate Student Government Wednesday, Jordan said UConn will explore opportunities to increase the amount of money the school makes.
According to the financial documents, UConn had a profit of $123,178 in 2014, after all expenses.
“With very few exceptions, no school does athletics to make money,” Jordan said.
According to the documents, most of the revenue from ticket sales is from the football, men’s and women’s basketball teams and a small amount from both ice hockey and soccer teams. Donor contributions and guarantees from participation in away games is also centered on those sports.
“There is no expectation when you field a swimming team that you do it to make money,” Jordan said.
Jordan argued that the benefit of athletics is not its direct income but as a way to boost UConn’s profile as a school and drive enrollment and donations. UConn is ranked as the 19th best public university by the U.S. News and World Report.
According to the ranking, the Division 1 sports are a “major focus for students.”
“Athletics is an important part of UConn, its culture and what we’re known for,” Jordan said. “It is a way that people get introduced to UConn.”
UConn Athletics was not available for comment.
Sports Editor Matt Zampini contributed reporting.
Nicholas Shigo is associate news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.