Athletics deficit still on the rise
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Townsend isn’t alone. Butler feels the same way.
“We need to understand where every single dollar is being spent,” he said. “Especially after the scandals that have plagued this campus for decades surrounding monetary infractions.”
In January 2011 SMU extended Orsini’s contract, crediting him with what it called “increased efficiencies at the university.”
But budget documents show spending has accelerated since Orsini started calling the shots.
According to records, expenses in the athletic department amounted to $26.6 million in 2007, then increased to $32.1 million in 2008, $35.3 million in 2009 and $35.8 million in 2010, the most recent year that actual figures are available.
Orsini explained the rise in expenses as a result of increased scholarships for student athletes.
However, the figures show annual grants-in-aid (scholarships) in the Orsini era have increased by $3.26 million, or 41 percent. Excluding scholarships, annual expenses post-Orsini have increased by $5.91 million, or 35 percent.
The athletic department’s definition of increased efficiencies is unique because it doesn’t include scholarships as an expense.
In 2010 Jay Weiner, a sports journalist and consultant of the Knight Commission, told The Daily Campus scholarships should be included in calculating the bottom line for athletic programs.
“Grants-in-aid are an expense, indeed,” Weiner said. “Across the Football Bowl Subdivision they account for 16 percent of athletic departments’ costs.”
At SMU in 2010, grants-in-aid accounted for 36.3 percent of athletic expenses, reflecting the Hilltop’s higher tuition in comparison to most FBS schools.
According to Sutton, athletics has decreased the university’s level of support of operations by 44 percent since 2007.
The budget shows that, excluding scholarships, the annual deficit has dropped from $7.9 million in 2007 to about $4.5 million in 2011 — a decrease of 43 percent.
But the overall expenses of the athletic department, including scholarships, increased 33.8 percent from $26.2 million in 2007 to about $35.6 million in 2011.
And Orsini says it’s worth it.
In a Feb. 15 speech to SMU Faculty Club members on the state of college athletics, Orsini focused on the additional benefits athletics brings to the university, such as increased national exposure, despite adding expenses to the budget.
Richard Alm, a member of the SMU Cox faculty, attended the event and believes that joining the Big East is a big step up for SMU.
But, Alm also worries about whether SMU’s teams are ready to play at this higher level of competition.
“Losing will be a setback for the athletic department’s top priority — raising attendance,” Alm said in an email interview.
Butler said that taking some of his tuition money for athletics is to be expected.
But he says he pays for education, not a “mediocre sports club.”
Students said they are concerned that their tuition money helps make up for the deficit.
Townsend disagrees with the use of tuition to help cover the athletic department’s losses.
“I think it’s insane that our money continues to go into a black hole of mismanagement that we don’t even have access to see the specifics of,” he said.
Regis said that tuition is just one of numerous revenue sources that support the university, including annual giving from donors, interest income and endowment income.
Orsini has also created a group of wealthy boosters called the “Circle of Champions” to support the athletic program.
Orlovsky recognizes the economic challenges of college athletics as a whole.
“It’s like what I teach, which is history of the the Soviet Union — we want reform, but nothing seems to work until the whole thing collapses, and maybe that’s what’ll happen with this.
But, as long as you have the media feeding it and the big money, it’s tough,” he said.
He is hopeful that joining the Big East will be a step in the right direction for the university.
SMU recently made headlines with its decision to hire Larry Brown as the head coach of the men’s basketball team.
But, Brown and his assistants don’t come cheap.
Terms of Brown’s contract have not been publicly disclosed, but when asked about it at his press conference, Brown told The Associated Press, “I’ve always been overpaid and this is no exception.”