Athletics profits down this season

Though revenues have slumped, donations are on the rise.

Tiff Clements

Josh Zimmerman has, at one time or another during the past four years, held student season tickets to men’s basketball, men’s hockey and football.

Zimmerman, a scientific and technical communication senior, said the Division I athletics schedule attracted him to the University.

“That was one reason I came to a big school like this,” he said. “I love college athletics; there is just a lot of integrity there as compared to professional sports.”

He added that he’d like to attend college sporting events after graduation if he has the extra cash.

Despite the perennial support of devoted fans like Zimmerman, many University athletics programs saw smaller profits during the 2005-2006 seasons than in 2004-2005.

The Board of Regents Audit Committee viewed the financial report from the athletics department, one in a series of university-wide statements, at a meeting last week.

What they’re making and spending

The report broke down the financial balances of four individual athletic programs: men’s and women’s basketball, football and men’s hockey. The remaining 21 sports were grouped together in a catch-all category.

While each of the five groups saw an increase in expenses of at least $100,000 between the two seasons, only football and men’s basketball saw revenues increase.

The athletics department still maintains a positive operating balance.

The report also outlined the department’s outstanding loans from projects such as the Ridder Arena and Baseline Tennis facility construction and Mariucci suite renovations in 2001.

As of March 31, 2006, athletics had $39 million of debt. The interest on those loans alone cost the department nearly $5 million during 2005-2006.

The department’s debt will climb this year due to an increase in the cost of TCF Bank Stadium by nearly $40 million, $25 million of which will be funded by new loans.

Stadium fund raising helps all programs

The athletics program solicited about $1.3 million more in donations in fiscal year 2006 than 2005.

Delinda Blanck, interim director of development with the Golden Gopher Fund, said the addition of a staff member in August 2005 and the approaching reality of an on-campus stadium helped boost overall donations.

“When you do a campaign such as the football stadium, you start reaching more individuals and more people start talking,” she said. “Their interest may not be the football stadium, but we’ve been able to capitalize on using the football stadium to talk to them and open the door.”

The department’s push for football funding might have impacted gifts to individual programs, though overall assistance to athletic programs has experienced a boost.

Donations to specific programs decreased by nearly 90 percent, while nonprogram-specific contributions increased by 150 percent, from about $3 million to $8 million.

Blanck said she expects to see donation numbers continue to rise in the coming years as interest in the on-campus stadium grows.