PULLMAN – The Washington State University athletic department’s financial woes will not end in the near future, but new president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Bill Moos have a plan for the department to eventually break even and begin paying down its debt to the university.
The fix involves having the school pick up tabs typically paid for by the athletic department, and the likely introduction of a student fee.
The athletic department posted shortfalls of approximately $13 million in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. The 2014 shortfall was only $3 million, thanks to a now-depleted reserve of $10 million.
The plan presented in a letter to the regents this week suggests the athletic department will become solvent in fiscal year 2020. The letter anticipates a fiscal year 2017 deficit of $9.7 million, a fiscal year 2018 deficit of $4.9 million and a fiscal year 2019 deficit of $900,000. In fiscal year 2020, the athletic department hopes to achieve a revenue surplus of $300,000.
This and future surpluses would be used to pay down the accumulated deficit.
This relies in part on the assumption that basketball ticket sales will increase, as well as increased giving to the Cougar Athletic Fund. Furthermore, the athletic department is relying on revenue from beer sold in Martin Stadium, which it projects to equal about $1 million per year.
The school had hoped to begin selling beer at the start of the current football season, but did not in the season opener and will not during Saturday’s game against Idaho, likely costing the athletic department close to $300,000 in lost revenue.
The letter notes that expenses have increased thanks to recent Pac-12 or NCAA rule changes, such as the lifting of restrictions on food for student-athletes who are not on scholarship and the decision to provide the full cost of attendance to athletes on scholarship.
A proposed “modest” student fee would generate between $1.7 million and $1.9 million. Furthermore, the school will pay for use of the president’s box in Martin Stadium, which is used for fundraising purposes, and custodial support for some athletic facilities that are used by general students. These measures still cost the school money, but do not come out of the athletic department’s budget.
The school would also agree to partially cover the Pac-12 conference dues, pay for the academic support unit, and partially compensate the athletic department for revenue not realized by the creation of the Pac-12 Network.
However, the letter does not account for potential added expenses, such as the buyout should WSU fire a coach.
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