The University Senate passed a motion that capped the university subsidy to the athletics department Monday. The motion capped the subsidy for fiscal year 2021 at $41 million, the same amount as this year.
The motion also requested they present a plan to reduce their subsidy by at least $15 million within the next 10 years at the May University Senate meeting. They also asked athletics to present an annual report on their progress at the first meeting of the year, including that year’s subsidy “clearly noted,” according to the motion.
When questioned on the impact of this decision, the university and athletic department deferred to a statement sent to the NCAA earlier this year.
“The bottom-line figure is not a comprehensive illustration of the many ways in which UConn Athletics continues to work toward greater financial self-sufficiency over time,” the statement said. “Reducing the athletic subsidy to a level that is in line with our peers remains our long-term goal, and one that helps shape our decision-making process every day.”
In January the Hartford Courant’s Alex Putterman reported that athletics ran at a $42.3 million deficit. Namely, the football program cost $13.3 million more than it earned outright in 2019, per the Hartford Courant.
The increased deficit seems to be a result of increased tuition costs, and therefore scholarship costs, as well as “declining conference and media licensing revenue”. The American Athletic Conference has a television deal with ESPN+ that was extended for the next 12 years, starting in 2020-21 according to a conference release.
“It is worth noting that a large portion of this deficit in recent years ($17.7 MM in FY 19) has been associated with student scholarships, including a $790,000 increase in scholarship cost in the past year,” the statement said.
This past July UConn announced they were moving conferences to the Big East and, as a result, have to pay out an exit fee from The American totaling $17 million over multiple years. The Hartford Courant also reported that UConn will have to pay a $3.5 million entrance fee into their new conference.
“As we have said in the past, the Division of Athletics is continually working to identify savings, drive up revenue, and address other factors within its control to help close this gap,” the statement said.
A piece of those savings comes in the form of payroll. The athletic department noted that they decreased “payroll and operating costs” by $1 million. At the same time, per the release, the university increased athletic donations from $10.4 million to $14.4 million from FY 18 to FY 19, a jump of 38.5%.
“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, requiring a smaller subsidy,” the statement said.
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