Inside Gopher Athletics: The Budget Misconception

Oct. 10, 2017

By Mark Coyle

Throughout the year, I enjoy finding opportunities to talk with fans around the state. In these conversations, it's typical to hear concerns about how Gopher Athletics is spending taxpayer or tuition money. While I appreciate that concern, it's based on a giant misconception.

While it is true that we receive some money from the University, we will pay the University nearly three times that amount in the coming year, and that does not include significant revenue generated during Gopher game days for other campus units, such as Parking and Transportation Services.

Our projected budget for this year is $114 million. That's a big number, no doubt, but it's also in the bottom half of the Big Ten. It's why we often discuss innovation in our department -- we need to be creative and strategic with how we use our resources if the goal is to not only compete, but defeat Big Ten powers with significantly larger budgets.

The largest expense in our budget is personnel (approximately 36 percent), followed by the expenses of supporting sports operations (16 percent). Scholarships make up our third largest cash outlay (11 percent).

This year, we expect to pay more than $12.5 million in scholarship expenses - tuition, fees, room and board, and books. In addition to that, we will pay nearly $6 million into the University's cost pool to help cover items like utility costs at athletic facilities. We spend more money annually with the University of Minnesota than any other organization with which we work, with projections calling for us to put more than $18.5 million into University coffers this fiscal year.

We anticipate bringing in enough revenue to cover our $114 million in expenses this year, with the largest amounts coming from three core revenue streams.

The first is our Big Ten and NCAA distributions. As a legacy member of the Big Ten, we receive a full share when revenue is split among conference institutions. That is a significant revenue source for us, accounting for more than 40 percent of this year's projected revenue.

The next two major revenue streams are ticket revenue (19 percent) and fundraising (14 percent). These are the areas where our fans invest the most in us each year. Since I was hired, I've often promised that we will do more to invest in our fans. In my first 17 months, we have done that and we will continue to do more. We do this because it's the right thing to do, but it's naïve to suggest there isn't also a clear business reason to do the right things for our fans.

One revenue stream that comes directly from the University is an Operations and Management allocation which will be around $6.8 million this year, a little more than one-third of what athletics will send back to campus. Many units on campus receive O&M money and athletics is no different. A portion of these funds are legally required to help support Title IX compliance.

Like any major college athletics department, our budget can be complicated. But, we are in the fortunate position of being able to balance our expenses with our projected revenue this year without relying on money from taxpayers or tuition. I'm happy to say we are forecasting the same for years into the future.

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