The Husky Growls (just a little)

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Here is today’s column.

As you might expect, UConn officials didn’t like very much.  I got this from Mike Enright, spokesguy for UConn athletics.


From Mike: reference to this paragraph

I say: beware of chasing the big money in college athletics. It’s not really there. This is a very hard thing to study, but sports at UConn don’t really pay for themselves. It takes an additional $15 million in student fees and university funds to balance the books, and that still doesn’t count costs carried elsewhere. Like the $90 million for the stadium. Overall tickets sales dropped from $13.3 million in 2006 to $10.6 million in 2011. TV rights and licensing shot way up in the same time period. Division I football costs way more than anything else and, as UConn learned in 2011, you can lose $1.6 million by making it to a bowl game.

The $15 million that we receive from the school  is used to fun [sic] intramural sports and recreation, which we manage and goes right back to the students. Part of that money also goes back to funding jobs for students, we are the second biggest employer of students on campus next to the cafeterias. Finally, we pay the University for the scholarship bills for the student-athletes to the tune of $10 million a year. So, why [sic] we receive $15 million a year, we return that back to the school with more to spare.

Yes, from a certain bleak perspective, we seem to have spent vast sums on football in order to cripple our once-proud basketball program. If we hadn’t done that, we could change the university’s name to St. Geno’s-on-the-Cow-Pastures and join the cool basketball conference. But the story is far from over, right? I mean the whole UConn-University of Houston rivalry could turn out to be huge.

How do you know that league would have taken us? One of the biggest problems with the Big East what that it was made of a wide range of Universities with different profiles – from public to parochial, large to small, etc. The two new leagues are now much more balanced in the type of institutions they are in. And one could argue that our new league will just be as competitive in the sports of men’s basketball and football. I will leave the football research up to you or some in, but here is someone who is respected and did some research.

Your reference in football losing money is also unfortunate. I am not sure where your facts came from (if they are the EADA report online shame on you), but football in fact makes a few million bucks a year for us when you include such intangibles as corporate sponsorships, etc., which are not included in some reports.


OK, this is me again:

The first thing I want to say is: I’m no expert in these matters. I found the disintegration of UConn’s conference status very puzzling, and I was annoyed not to be able to find a decent piece of explanatory journalism about it. So I read a bunch of stuff and tried to get smart about it. I’m still not sure I have a handle on it, but I’m fascinated now, so I intend to keep poking around.

Let me say a few things about Enright’s email:

1. Where did I get my figures about how the sports budget is balanced?  Right here. These are figures submitted by the schools to the NCAA and then obtained through FOI. Click on the plus sign next to Connecticut and look at the drop-down. Enright says the $15 million from fees and school budget is for the regular schlubs who aren’t on teams. It’s nice that some monies are spent on these people. The Knight Commission been looking at spending-per-athlete v. spending-per-student.  The disparities are big. But that’s neither here nor there. Does the sports budget balance? Not at all.  It would be fun to sit a few interested parties down and lay out the real long-term costs of bigtime sports at UConn. We know that the debt service on the $90 million stadium is carried on other books. So, I would assume, are the debts on some of these high end practice facilities. Just because that Burton guy gave so much money he thought he got to pick the football coach, when it comes to the practice facility, he did’t build that. $31 million came from public bonds.  I have no idea how many other off-the-books expenses exist, nor do I know what would be a fair way to account for them. But I’m guessing that the current system hides the real cost of sports, and that much of that cost is borne by you, the taxpayer.

1A. When you look at those figures in the USA chart, one column jumps out. Basically, college sports are in the TV business. Without the enormous growth in TV revenues, UConn has a problem.  I urge you to read this piece.  It does a good job of laying out the risks. For UConn, one risk that jumps out is that here in the Northeast, college football just isn’t as big a deal as it is elsewhere in the country.  The last paragraph is the scariest one:

But for schools in the bottom half of college football’s highest division, these payouts could spell doom. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick says schools that fail to keep pace could ultimately be dropped to a lower level of competition with little hope for advancement. “The tension grows as the business models diverge,” he says.

If the TV rights number starts to move south instead of north, it probably means fiscal problems for UConn. Being in a jury-rigged conference can’t possibly help. Which brings me to:

2. It always seems a little disingenuous when Enright or any other UConn official argues that the new conference is balanced and competitive. We know they’re staging a remake of “Papillon” trying to scrape their way out of there. In fact, when you click on the link he sent me, you get an article that ends:

Neither Connecticut nor Cincinnati views the Metro 9, or whatever you want to call it, as anything more than a parking place. But it’s not the leaking, stinking, crumbling parking lot you’ve been led to believe. Its best future is to be broken off and sold for parts, but several of those parts are of considerable value.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

3.  I never said UConn football loses money.  I said they lost money on their bowl bid. Everybody knows that. Does UConn football lose money?  I have no idea. The accounting behind the finances of bigtime college sports looks like something rigged up by Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas. Few of the big overhead costs are part of the visible budget. Which of course is a great way to look profitable.

But now my curiosity is piqued.



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3 thoughts on “The Husky Growls (just a little)

  1. William Hosley

    Stay with this. Its one of the most important themes you’ve taken up. Combine this with Racketeering Ritter and we might actually begin to remake CT into a place honest enterprising people find attractive. One of the most believable things I ever heard was the explanation that the real purpose of big sports is bread & circus – that if folks didn’t have something like this to take their minds off their grim realities – they’d be up in arms. So perhaps it is social cohesion insurance – not big business as we are relentlessly mislead into believing. I would be stunned if it turned out the direct and indirect costs weren’t greater than the inevitably declining revenue. Ditto state-sanctioned casino gambling. The generations that made CT rich got by pretty well without either of these things. We probably can too.

  2. Mountain Dogs

    The biggest factor to breaking up the Big East was greed. They refused a TV extension worth over 1 billion dollars thinking they could get more. Pittsburgh was the leading voice of decension and the first one out the door when it blew up. The new name for this fractured bunch should be the Big Greedy. Perfect for the state of college athletics.
    The reason we will not get the ACC invite is Blumenthal. His ridiculous lawsuit won’t be forgotten. It’s not Calhoun or the football program. Take a look at the academic fraud being perpetrated at North Carolina. The pay for play scandal engulfing Miami. The ACC is just fine with it as long as your bringing in ths cash. Let’s face it, Jeff Hathaway was an imbecile as an AD and Uconn will pay the price for years to come.

  3. Richard

    There are 3 teams worse off than when they began in conference realignment — UConn, Cincy and USF. Everyone else gained.

    With the Maryland case in the courts and the Big-12 admittingly kicking the tires to add two more teams to get from 10 to 12 it looks like there’s still an opportunity for UConn to come out of this OK. The Big Ten positioned themselves for East Coast expansion by adding Rutgers and Maryland. A raid of the ACC is expected at some point which ironically will leave UConn playing against the same old Big East Teams under the ACC banner.

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