Despite spending the fewest dollars per student-athlete of any school in the ACC, Maryland’s athletic department is on course to lose $4.7 million in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2012. Its budget deficit is projected to escalate substantially over the next five years, ballooning to $17.6 million in June 2017 unless the department significantly increases revenue, slashes spending or both.
Maryland knew it had a budget problem when university President Wallace D. Loh appointed a commission in July to study the matter. But financial documents provided to The Washington Post lay bare just how severe the problem is and stands to become.
Among them is a chart showing that Maryland ranks at the bottom of the ACC in its spending per student-athlete.
Florida State, which offers 19 varsity sports, spends the most per athlete: $118,814. Maryland spends $67,390, less than 57 percent of Florida State’s investment per player. All other ACC schools spend more than $71,000 per athlete, and five schools — Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Duke and Wake Forest — spend more than $100,000.
The spending comparison was derived from data in the federally mandated Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act for 2010. Per-athlete spending reflects many factors in addition to scholarships, such as coaching staffs, travel, athletic trainers, academic support staff and equipment.
The Post also received a spreadsheet that projects a $4.7 million deficit in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2012, a shortfall that will more than triple in five years if not addressed. Members of the President’s Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics appointed by Loh reviewed similar budget documents.
Based on that grim forecast of mounting deficits, the panel may recommend that Maryland eliminate some of its 27 varsity sports, four more than the ACC average and 11 more than the NCAA minimum for Division I membership.
The documents raise difficult questions, both philosophical and practical, about the future of Maryland athletics.
For starters: Is it realistic to expect Maryland’s teams to contend for ACC championships and NCAA titles when its spending lags behind that of every other conference member?
If it’s not realistic, should Maryland reduce the number of varsity teams and fund those that remain at a competitive level?
The co-chairs of the commission — Barry P. Gossett, chairman of the university’s Board of Regents, and Linda M. Clement, the school’s vice president for student affairs — declined to discuss their work Wednesday, deferring to university spokesman Brian Ullmann.
Asked whether the commission felt it was possible to balance the budget through revenue increases alone, Ullmann replied in an e-mail exchange, “The Commission’s work is ongoing, therefore any comment on specifics would be premature.”
Ullmann said the commission is expected to send its report to Loh by Nov. 15 as scheduled. Loh is not expected to announce his decision until Dec. 31, after Athletic Director Kevin Anderson and the school’s Athletic Council, which advises Loh on intercollegiate athletics, have an opportunity to weigh in.
Anderson was circumspect about the financial documents and the issues they raise, noting that — while he has been consulted as a resource — he is not part of the 17-member commission. But Anderson has made clear since being named athletic director last fall that he expects all of Maryland’s teams to contend for league championships and intends to put them in position to do so.
He reiterated that conviction in an interview Tuesday.
“I expect Maryland student-athletes to compete at a high level in the classroom and on the field and develop as young men and women,” Anderson said. “And I want to make sure they have the best experience possible.”
According to the budget projections, Maryland’s athletic revenues will grow 8.98 percent over the next five fiscal years, from roughly $57.8 million to $62.9 million. But expenses are projected grow 13.3 percent in that time, from roughly $62.6 million to nearly $71 million.
While football accounts for the bulk of Maryland’s athletic income, its ticket revenue is expected to remain essentially flat, though Maryland will get a boost of $3.5 million for playing two “home” games at the Baltimore Ravens’ home field, M&T Bank Stadium, in 2013 and 2014.
Maryland differs from many other Division I schools in that its athletic department is required to be self-sustaining.
Mandatory student fees represented the third-largest source of income for Terrapins sports, accounting for $11.1 million this fiscal year, following revenue generated by football ($16.1 million) and men’s basketball ($12.1 million). But Maryland lags behind most of its ACC peers in revenue generated by its main booster group, the Terrapin Club.
In April, Anderson said in the past two to three years, the athletic department had lost between 2,000 and 3,000 donors.
The Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has done nearly all of its work behind closed doors but sought input from faculty, students and staff during an open forum on campus in September. Turnout was poor, with only two people signing up to address the panel.
Mindful of the looming deadline, Maryland wrestling alumni circulated an e-mail urging supporters to remind the panel of the team’s recent achievements, including ACC championships in three of the last four years (2008, 2009, 2011) and six all-Americans in the past five years. Supporters were also encouraged to share any revenue-generated ideas that would ensure the future of Maryland wrestling.