The Times West Virginian

Sports

February 20, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Are Big 12 athletics worth the cost?

MORGANTOWN — It took West Virginia University officials nearly eight months — instead of the usual two months — to reveal a financial report on athletics for fiscal year 2011-12.

As expected, the figures all-around were staggeringly ugly. They show that the university’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics could be in the red for many years to come.

It is in debt nearly $13 million. That could have been almost $16.5 million if the WVU Foundation hadn’t seen fit to hand over to athletics a “gift” of $3.5 million.

According to the report, the department received a revenue of $80,064,869.86 and expenses also set an all-time record of $92,968,426.76.

They were spending money like it was going out of style.

We’re talking about the period from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012. So it is assumed that the athletic department won’t be much — if any — better off when fiscal 2012-13 rolls around in about four months.

With numbers like those, are Big 12 Conference athletics really worth the cost? Some people seriously wonder. They fear it’s going to get a lot worse.

This admittedly most recent deficit reportedly follows nine consecutive fiscal years ending with a profit. But predictions are that losses could continue for many years to come.

As a result, some planned projects in the athletic department have been placed on hold, according to WVU officials.

Of course, WVU paying $20 million to exit from the Big East Conference was largely responsible for the huge deficit.

And there are loans still to be paid off.

That was needed to join in the Big 12 by June 30, 2012, so that conference would have a 10th school and deal with TV networks for billions in broadcasting revenues.

But WVU won’t receive a full share in yearly profit until the Big 12 is repaid for its significant loan.

The university also revealed that three internal loans were obtained by the athletic department to help ease operating budgets.

Then there are those million dollar coaching salaries in football and basketball.

Athletic Director Oliver Luck also had to pay several coaches he fired after taking over the reins from Ed Pastilong, who served 21 years as the athletic director. That was about 2 1/2 years ago.

Despite the red ink, WVU does not plan to stop any athletic renovation projects, institute any pay freezes or cuts, or lower operating expenses during the next few years.

It is interesting to note that the university gave recent pay raises to Luck, head football coach Dana Holgorsen and head men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins.

Luck’s base salary was bumped from $390,000 annually to $550,000, plus incentives.

Holgorsen, who was hired by Luck, now is to be paid $2.5 million this year. He was making $1.65 million.

Huggins’ base pay became $3 million in a new contract extension last November. He was making $2.3 to $2.7 million, plus incentives.

The Mountaineers’ travel expenses have grown, too, since they became a member of the Big 12. Widening of recruiting in more states is costing more, too.

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