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Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 06/30/2011

Maryland official questions USA Today report on athletics funding

A USA Today report released Tuesday said Maryland received $13,749,781 in revenue allocated from institutional or government support or student fees in fiscal year 2009-10, the fourth-highest total among BCS programs in the country. But the report is “very misleading,” according to an athletic department official.

Randy Eaton, Maryland’s deputy director of athletics, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that, at least in Maryland’s case, student fees should not be grouped with institutional support because the leadership of the student body moderates such fees on an annual basis.

In fiscal year 2009-10, Maryland reported receiving $9,408,122 in student fees, which are paid annually in addition to room, board, tuition and books. The athletic department also reported receiving $4,341,659 in direct institutional support and no money from government support.

The USA Today report combined those three tallies for all Division I public schools in forming its subsidy comparison, a method with which Eaton disagreed.

“If you really want to compare institutional support, pull student fees out,” Eaton said. “Now, the argument they’re going to make is some schools have a blanket student fee, and they won’t break it out and say how much is going to athletics. I can’t say that’s a false statement, but I would say that’s getting less and less accurate.

“You can go to the University System of Maryland Web site and you can look at the mandatory student fees for every institution, and every institution breaks it out and says how much is for athletics.” 

According to the University System’s Web site, the amount of student fees per student devoted to athletics in the fiscal year 2009-10 was $393, which was 26.4 percent of the fees paid per student.

That number increased by $1 in fiscal year 2010-11, which ends Thursday. In the coming fiscal year, that number will increase to $398, which will account for 23.6 percent of all student fees. 

Each September, Eaton has to appear in front of the school’s student fee committee, either to request an increase in the amount of student fees devoted to athletics or to inform the committee no increase is needed. Once the student fee committee approves a plan for divvying up the student fees among various campus components, Eaton said, the plan then must be approved by the university president’s council. Then it is put in front of the Board of Regents. 

“I would argue that any school that gets student fees that the students approved, that’s not institutional support,” Eaton said. “That’s not coming from the institution.” 

Eaton said roughly $2.5 million of the annual institutional support the athletic department receives comes from tuition wavers, which apply to non-resident student-athletes who receive full-ride scholarships. 

The athletic departments of some schools use institutional support as a means to balance their budgets. That has not been the case for Maryland dating back to Eaton’s arrival in May 2003, he said. 

According to the financial reports Maryland must file annually with the NCAA, the percentage of revenue that the athletic department has drawn from institutional support and student fees has increased from roughly 19 percent in the fiscal year 2005-06 to roughly 25 percent in the fiscal year 2009-10.  

These facts were pointed out in the USA Today subsidy report, as well, and again, Eaton cautioned against buying into the percentages. 

“It’s not that those things are climbing, it’s that everything else has been flat or dropped significantly,” Eaton said. “We’re holding the line on expenses as much as we can. Everything else may be growing at a 1-2 percent rate, but two of my biggest line items – tickets and contributions – have gone down over the past five years. Therefore, by default, everything else is going up in percentages.” 

In fiscal year 2005-06, Maryland reported earning roughly $12.2 million in ticket sales and roughly $10.3 million in donor contributions. 

In fiscal year 2009-10, the school reported receiving roughly $12.8 million in ticket sales and roughly $9.9 million in donor contributions.

During that five-year span, student fees received annually by the Maryland athletic department increased by roughly $1.8 million and institutional support received annually increased by roughly $1.9 million, according to the school’s NCAA financial reports. 

“Think of the prime seating the students get at basketball games, and think of the money I could generate if I sold those,” Eaton said. “Those seats are gold. If we could sell the student allocation for football, I think it would be worth more money. It’s not about money; it’s about the atmosphere and the experience for both our student-athletes and our student body.  

“I would never say the student fees equal the [ticket sales]. That’s not the point. But for most schools that get student fees, the students get free admission to athletic events. And so, since the students are voting on it – and that really is the point for us – the students have approved this since Day One.”

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 06/30/2011

Tags:  Athletic department

 
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