Arizona State leads Power Five schools in pandemic athletics aid

The Power Five Public Schools athletic departments received hundreds of millions of dollars in special assistance from a combination of university, state and federal sources during the 2020-21 athletic seasons conducted amid the toughest restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic, recently obtained documents and information View.

Arizona State is leading the way, providing a net total of $67.3 million in school and tuition funds to its athletics program, according to its annual financial report to the NCAA, which was acquired through to an open records request from USA TODAY Sports in partnership with the Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Data Project at Syracuse University.

In recent years, the State of Arizona has generally provided approximately $17 million in support for the athletics program. While USA TODAY Sports and Knight-Newhouse are still collecting fiscal 2021 financial reports, the $67.3 million represents by far the largest annual direct fundraising expense by a Division I public school. , according to USA TODAY/Knight.Newhouse’s data dates back to fiscal year 2005, when the NCAA launched its current reporting system.

The previous high total was Central Michigan’s $55.1 million reported for fiscal year 2020. The second highest by a Power Five public school is the $38 million Rutgers reported for fiscal year 2021.

“Rather than leaving Sun Devil Athletics with a year-end budget shortfall due to COVID-19 restrictions, ASU has proactively developed a plan to address the shortfall,” the spokesperson said. Jay Thorne University via email. “ASU restructured its July 1, 2021 debt service on athletic and other facilities at historically low interest rates and a portion of the savings was allocated to (Sun Devil Athletics) to fund pandemic-related losses. “

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The athletic department said it received $11.3 million in tuition in fiscal year 2021, about $75,000 less than in 2020. It ended up reporting an operating surplus of 13 $.9 million for fiscal 2021 after recording a deficit of $10.9 million in 2020.

The overall status of the Power Five public school athletic programs for 2021 in terms of the assistance they have received from their institutions is difficult to assess due to the different approaches they have taken to manage revenue declines from exploitation that have occurred due to match cancellations and match attendance limits. which have been played.

Financial reports obtained from 47 of 52 public schools show that in 2021, combined operating revenue fell $1.36 billion from 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. But that number is misleading because the 11 Southeastern Conference school reports obtained so far include as revenue a $23.3 million advance on future conference distributions that the SEC announced last May.

When these advances are removed from the equation, the combined drop in revenue increases to $1.62 billion.

But even that doesn’t paint the full picture. In addition to unprecedented amounts of funding for Arizona State schools, seven other athletic departments saw anomalous year-over-year increases in net school funding and tuition, totaling about $50 million. Rutgers had the biggest of those increases at $13.6 million.

Meanwhile, some other Power Five schools’ athletic programs that didn’t dramatically increase school funding ended up reporting massive operating deficits for 2021. Ohio State’s was $63.7 million. of dollars; $62.5 million from UCLA. A total of 18 schools reported operating deficits of more than $10 million.

Even with a combined total of nearly $43 million in revenue from school operations, government sources, and tuition, Rutgers reported a shortfall of $30.4 million.

While some athletic programs had built up reserve funds that could have offset at least part of a deficit, most deficit athletic programs borrow money—in many cases from the university. Due to operating deficits in previous years, Rutgers’ athletics program received $84 million in loans from the university, according to analysis by The Record and NorthJersey.com.

Last summer, school president Jonathan Holloway told the outlet, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, that the university was considering canceling the loans.

The UCLA program also posted eight-figure operating deficits in 2019 and 2020, but it receives a relatively paltry $2.6 million in school funds and tuition each year. This is generally the second-lowest total among public schools in the Pac-12 Conference after Oregon. Its 2021 deficit brings its three-year total to $103 million.

“The department is working with the campus to address these concerns on an annual and long-term basis,” UCLA Department of Athletics spokesman Scott Markley said in an email. “We have already started to take many steps, including cost reductions and increased revenue from ticket packages and pricing.”

Asked if the department was borrowing the $103 million from the university and if there was a repayment plan in place, Markley said, “We were finalizing when the pandemic hit. Like this is the case for many non-university university departments, the university will provide a line of credit to cover the deficit, which Athletics will have to repay in the future.”

Even with the expense and income metrics that Markley outlines, this can be difficult. From 2007 to 2018, UCLA reported balanced athletics revenues and expenses against the dollar.

The 2021 reports from seven Power Five schools showed for the first time that they had received significant funding from the state or other governments. Virginia and Virginia Tech have each brought in more than $13 million in this type of funding. Virginia state budget rules prohibit public universities from using state appropriations or tuition revenue for annual operating expenses of units considered academically auxiliary, which include athletic departments. .

But a Virginia Tech athletics spokesperson provided an email that spoke about its government funding in fiscal year 2021: “To alleviate financial challenges posed by the pandemic, the state, the (board board) and federal agencies took several actions, including federal and state support, debt restructuring, and a health care vacation program. Revenues of more than $13 million for athletics are the result of the University’s overall financial strategy based on these actions.

Money from a federal pandemic relief program, the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), has been used by at least one other school: LSU. In its previous 16 years of NCAA financial reporting, LSU’s athletics department was among a handful nationwide to never show athletics revenue from school or government funds or fees. of schooling. It also posted an operating surplus every year, and in each of the previous four years gave at least $7.4 million to the university.

In 2021, Associate Director of Athletics Neal Lamonica said in an email: “LSU Athletics received $4,041,962 in HEERF funds in FY21 to reimburse for mandatory COVID testing for students and the training staff, PPE, sanitary supplies, etc.”

LSU’s program still reported an operating deficit of $9.6 million for the year, not including the $4.4 million it provided to the university.

Contributor: Abbott Koloff and Jean Rimbach, NorthJersey.com

Follow sports project reporter Steve Berkowitz on Twitter @ByBerkowitz