Thursday, March 24, 2016

USF Athletics Budget Balanced on Back of Students

The University of South Florida has had a number of recent highlights on the athletic fields and courts, standing tall against some of the biggest NCAA powerhouses in the country. But it's getting harder for USF to compete, at least financially, according to the latest report on WTSP-TV.

The exhaustive analysis of last year's USF athletics budget reveals growing expenses and shrinking revenues, forcing students and the USF Foundation to balance the budget.  It's a growing problem for schools in the "Group of Five," as they try to keep up with the athletic programs in the "Power Five," but without the robust television and NCAA revenues.

"There are financial challenges at USF," said Yulander Wells, the program's chief financial officer. "(But) there are financial challenges for other schools in the 'Group of Five.'"

USF students get free tickets to all home athletic events -- and thanks to successes in sports such as women's basketball, men's golf, and men's tennis -- USF enjoyed its highest finish in the Learfield Director's Cup standings last year (73rd), which takes into account dozens of varsity sports.

But in the sports that matter most to USF's budget -- men's basketball and football -- years of struggles are taking a toll on the department's revenues.

Other findings from the analysis include:
  • Five years of football struggles decimated ticket sales and contributions revenues;
  • The split of the Big East - and fall from an NCAA power conference - dealt a big blow to USF's television and NCAA revenues;
  • The loosening of NCAA rules on paying athlete cash stipends costs USF about a million dollars a year;
  • Head Coach Willie Taggart's contract extension costs another million dollars a year;
  • A football stadium on-campus is as much of a financial risk as it would be a possible revenue-booster.
Wells is right - a lot of newer athletic programs share the same problems. But the difference between the NCAA's "haves" in the Power Five and the "have-nots" in the Group of Five is growing.

Click here to read or watch the reports on 10News WTSP.

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