January 18, 2019

UConn athletics runs up $40M deficit

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford
Photo | Contributed
Connecticut Huskies carry head coach Geno Auriemma off the court after defeating the Louisville Cardinals 76-54 in the finals of the 2009 NCAA women's basketball tournament at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.

UConn's athletic department spent more than $40 million than it earned in 2018, according to the school.

Connecticut's flagship state university generated $40.4 million in revenue from sports last year, but spent almost $81 million, according to an NCAA financial statement made public Thursday. Both expenses and revenue were down slightly compared to 2017.

UConn, with a majority of its athletic programs in the American Athletic Conference, received $7.1 million in conference distribution funds and $1 from media rights in 2018, the financial statement said.

The steep deficit was plugged with $30 million in institutional support and $8.5 million from student fees.

UConn football remains the department's most expensive team to operate at more than $15.7 million last year. Also, ticket sales for the one-win team in 2018 totaled $2.4 million vs. $3.3 million in 2017.

That resulted in a $8.7 million deficit for the football team.

As of Aug. 2018, the football program's attendance at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford has declined by more than 48 percent since it peaked in 2008 when it averaged 39,331 fans per game, according to the NCAA.

UConn men's basketball lost $5 million, while women's basketball lost $3 million. It cost $11 million to operate the men's basketball team and $7.8 million to manage the women's program, the statement said.

UConn athletics spent nearly $17 million on scholarships and $14.4 million for staff and administrative support.

The athletic department also spent $17 million on salaries for coaches. About 12 percent of that was paid to the state of Connecticut's highest-paid employee, women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma, according to the Connecticut Office of the State Comptroller.

The Hall of Fame coach, and 11-time NCAA National Champion, earned over $2.1 million in 2018. In Sept. 2017, Auriemma offered to forego his salary amid the state's budget crisis at the time, the Associated Press has reported.

Amid nationwide conference realignment, UConn athletics' transition in 2013 from the Big East Conference to the American Athletic Conference has exacerbated its financial struggles, considering the millions of dollars at stake for programs in larger conferences, including the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Big Ten Conference. The Associated Press reported the average team in the SEC and Big Ten earned about $41 million and $38.5 million last year, respectively.

Meantime, UConn is working on plans to build a $45 million hockey arena at its Storrs campus.

The school's board of trustees approved the arena's public-private financing plan in November, which calls for the school to spend $12.5 million from its reserves, $10 million from revenues the school accrued from the sale of its former West Hartford campus and the Nathan Hale Inn, and $22.5 million through debt financing.

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