The University of Connecticut athletic department is in debt. A huge, heaping pile of debt.
UConn released its annual athletics financial statement on Thursday, and it’s over $40 million in the hole.
The UConn athletic department had over $80.9 million of expenditures in 2018, and it brought in just over $40.4 million. The UF athletics department spent $155.8 million in 2017-18 and reported $149.2 in revenue for comparison. Florida’s debt is healthy. UConn’s needs triple-bypass surgery.
Huskies athletic director David Benedict is in a big dilemma as a result. He has to decrease the deficit somehow, and cutting sports — the obvious way of solving the issue — is a brutal and tricky tactic. If he cuts one men’s or women’s sport, he will have to cut a sport for the opposite gender with nearly the same amount of scholarships in order to comply with Title IX.
Before this, Benedict needs to examine other options.
First, take an inventory of all expenses. Look at every single expenditure each sport is making, which I’m sure Benedict is already doing.
However, there’s already a glaring expense, although small, UConn needs to cut: uniforms.
The football team went 1-11 last season, and it hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 or a bowl appearance since 2015. No wonder Huskies football saw 28-percent decline in ticket sales last season.
Despite this, the team is getting new uniforms next season. That’s an issue because football definitely hasn’t earned new duds. This cut and others like it should be extra points of emphasis since the football program lost the athletics department $8.7 million last year, more money than any other sport.
Shifting to basketball, the Huskies’ men’s team lost about $5 million while the women’s team lost about $2.3 million. The men have struggled the last few seasons, but these two programs are by far the school’s most storied. The problem is that they’re playing in the American Athletic Conference.
Playing in the AAC means playing against lesser competition, especially if you compare that to the teams UConn used to face when it was a member of the Big East. But let’s view this from a purely monetary standpoint.
Currently, UConn athletics receives a little less than $2 million per year as part of the AAC’s seven-year, $126 million television rights deal with ESPN that started in 2013. And this deal includes football.
The Big East, which doesn’t have football, also struck up a television rights deal in 2013 but with Fox. The Big East’s deal is worth $500 million over 12 years, which shakes out to a little over $4.1 million for each of the 10 teams. However, there’s a catch. If the Big East expands to 12 teams, the deal would increase in worth to $600 million.
It has to be a no-brainer for Benedict to want to return to the Big East, especially basketball.
If UConn were to join the Big East it’d more than double its revenue from television rights immediately. That makes a little cut into the deficit. Also, UConn will play against better competition than it is in the AAC.
Just playing better teams will bring more fans into the stands, and it’ll definitely bring better players to UConn (at least in case of the men’s team). In turn, the men will increase their chances of making the NCAA Tournament with better players and a tougher schedule, which is where the real money is made in college basketball.
Switching conferences is just an unlikely suggestion, but it’s definitely a way for Benedict and UConn athletics to slash its deficit.
Mark Stine is assistant sports editor at the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at email@example.com.