Editorial: UConn Athletics should no longer sport such a nasty deficit

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Relative Change in AD Subsidy and key Budget Components normalized to 2005 level.    Graph    courtesy of the University Senate Budget Committee

Relative Change in AD Subsidy and key Budget Components normalized to 2005 level.

Graph courtesy of the University Senate Budget Committee

The University of Connecticut prides itself on its athletics, especially its illustrious women’s and men’s basketball teams. The UConn community clamors for victories related not only to game outcomes but also to financial gain. Unfortunately UConn’s athletics budget deficit skyrocketed to $42.3 million – one of the highest values nationwide – in 2019. Although several extenuating circumstances factored into this absurd deficit – and might lead to another one in FY20 – it’d be inexcusable for UConn Athletics to continue sporting such a nasty deficit. 

An exponential rise in annual operating expenses looms large. A 2017 University Budget Committee report noted that “between 2005 and 2017, expenditures for the AD grew 70% from $47 million to $80 million.” This falls in line with 2019’s total of $79,070,708 in operating expenses, which is due to increase by approximately $1 million in 2020, according to the University Senate. Such circumstances have forced UConn to provide a greater subsidy to its athletics department, contributing nearly $36 million in 2019. While said university subsidy – in conjunction with student fees – has offset the deficit somewhat, it isn’t a sustainable solution to UConn Athletics’ budgetary issues. 

Many factors can be attributed to this predicament. Chief among them is UConn’s affiliation with the American Athletic Conference (AAC), which has reduced TV revenue and increased recruiting, travel and game expenses significantly. UConn’s recently fired coaches, particularly those of its football and men’s basketball teams, have exacerbated the university’s athletics budget woes via severance packages and an arbitration case, respectively. Ticket sales have also been dropping, although this appears to be an issue for college sports nationwide. 

Despite such setbacks, UConn Athletics has great potential to avoid trouble moving forward. For one, UConn hopes to reduce its AD subsidy, which is one of the highest among NCAA-eligible institutions, within the next few years. The university’s return to the Big East, which’ll incur additional short-term expenses, should attract more TV revenue and alleviate operating expenditures. And barring unforeseen circumstances, UConn shouldn’t have to buy out any more high-profile coaches within the near future. According to a university statement, “Athletics-related donations increased 42% between FY18 and FY19 (from $10.4 million to $14.4 million) … While FY 20 projections point to athletics requiring a similar amount of University support, we project that athletics revenue will increase and we will be in a much improved situation financially in FY 21.” 

Before long, UConn Athletics should stop dropping the ball and get it rolling in money once again. 

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