Convinced its football stadium was too small and its basketball arena too outmoded for its fan base, Maryland over the past decade expanded Byrd Stadium and added luxury suites, and built the Comcast Center. At the time of construction, officials said the upgrades would pay for themselves through a jump in ticket revenue. Instead, Maryland’s football and basketball teams have struggled, and attendance and revenue have dropped.
As a result, spending on buildings and grounds has soared nearly 78 percent over the past five years, from $4.6 million to $8.2 million, according to data supplied to the NCAA. Debt service on the construction projects alone totals $7.9 million this year — up from $6.9 million in 2010-11. That’s more than 11 percent of Maryland’s athletic department budget, and the figure escalates each year like bad credit-card debt.
That’s just one line-item in a Maryland athletics operating budget that increased 24 percent over the last five years, from $49.5 million in 2005-06 to $61.6 million in 2010-11. Spending on the Terrapins’ coaching staff climbed at an even higher rate, rising nearly 30 percent, from $18.7 million to $24.3 million.
Meanwhile, total revenue increased only 15 percent, from $53.6 million to $61.6 million in the same span.
And, for the first time since the NCAA financial reports have been required, Maryland football actually lost money in 2010-11, with expenses ($12,538,482) outpacing revenue ($12,065,000) by $473,482.
That deficit alone is nearly enough to fund one of the eight teams Maryland announced in November would be dropped: Men’s and women’s swimming and diving, acrobatics and tumbling, men’s tennis, women’s water polo and men’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. Men’s outdoor track may get a reprieve this weekend if it reaches an interim fundraising target set by the university.
So, too, is the $500,000 in guaranteed annual compensation that Maryland is paying its new offensive coordinator, Mike Locksley, hired in January to help turn around a football team that finished 2-10 last season. And the $3 million cost of the new synthetic turf football field at Byrd Stadium could fund five varsity teams for a year. Maryland has declined to identify the private donor who footed the bill for the field.
Athletic Director Kevin Anderson, who was hired two years ago, says Maryland’s student-athletes have been under-served as a result of the athletic department’s chronic operating deficits and deserve better.
“I did not come to the University of Maryland to cut sports,” he said, “but dire situations require decisive action.”