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Cal joins list of Pac-12 athletic departments with large debts

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged that Cal’s deficits are a concern. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged that Cal’s deficits are a concern. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

PULLMAN – The Pac-12 conference loves to boast that it is the “Conference of Champions,” but massive budget deficits at member schools are beginning to threaten the Olympic sports which have led to most of the Pac-12’s athletic successes.

California is the latest school to vastly overspend its means, projecting a $21.76 million deficit in the 2016 fiscal year. Because of the dire financial straits – the school is projected to lose $150 million this year overall – it seems likely the Golden Bears will have to cut some sports.

Six years ago, Cal cut baseball, gymnastics, men’s rugby and women’s lacrosse, but were able to reinstate the sports through fundraising. Washington State’s athletics department ran a $13 million deficit last season and the University of Washington projects a $14.8 million deficit in FY 2016.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott spoke to the media before Washington State’s game against Oregon, and acknowledged that the deficits were a concern. However, it is unlikely the conference would intervene or try to support the athletic departments beyond the general efforts to increase payouts across the board.

“Certainly we follow that and want our athletic departments to be healthy and robust,” Scott said. “We don’t get involved in any way on the expense side of universities and how they spend. We obviously read about it and I talk to the schools about it when I visit with them.”

Scott said that he has no update on the conference’s ongoing efforts to make a deal with DirecTV that would expand the conference’s reach.

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