The University of Maryland athletic department will raise the price of football and basket tickets next season in the face of anticipated losses of as much as $400,000 in the fiscal year ending June 30.
This would wipe out the $378,000 cash surplus the department enjoyed at the start of the current fiscal year. The major cause is inflation, according to Frank Gray, an assistant athletic director and the department's accountant, especially the cost of fringe benefits on the department's $1 million annual payroll.
Under the scale approved by the College Park campus' budget committee, football tickets that sold for $8 per game last last season now ill cost as much as $10 per game, depending on the opponent.Basketball tickets will rise from $5.50 to $6 per game.
Athletic Director carl James said the football ticket price increase will bring the Terrapins in line with other Atlantic Coast Conference schools, which are charging $9 for all league games. Tickets to Maryland versus Penn State will be $10 and tickets for other nonconference opponents will remain at $8, James said.
Gary said the gate receipts in football and basketball, the revenue-producing sports of the $3 million program, both increased. Gross revenues in football tickets were up 20 percent on each home game, Gray said.
The department also will start a campaign to increase its football season-ticket sales from the current 10,000 to 21,000, James said. Gray said a 5,000-book increase in season-ticket sales would give the Terps a solid financial base next season.James said he would be happy with an initial increase of 15-17 percent or about 1,600 more season tickets.
"We have to do a better job of merchandising everything we have, as far as extra seats are concerned ... and we have not had sellouts," said James. "We have to operate within a budget. Nobody would approve a budget I would submit in excess of projected income."
James said it was likely that some nonessential travel in nonrevenue-producting sports, the so-called minor sports, would be made to balance the budget, if necessary.
He also said he was evaluating whether Maryland will continue its Christmas basketball tournament or participation in the Tipoff Tournament after this year because of slim financial returns.
An increase in the student athletic fee, which is now $40 per student per year and generates approximately per year and generates approximately one-third of the department's $3 million operating budget, is not anticipated, according to Gray and James.
The mandatory student athletic fee was a source of constant controversy under Jum Kehoe, the athletic director who retired Sept. 1 and became athletic consultant to University President John Toll. Students felt the fee should have been voluntary.
Maryland is one of a handful of major schools whose altheltic departments are self-supporting and operate at a profit.
It was not that way when Kehoe took over in 19699 The deficit at that time was approxiamtely $375,000 and the facilities were decaying . When the turned over the directionshiop to James las fall, the facilities were first rate and the cash surplus was $378,000.
Because it is a self-supporting operation, the athlectic department must pay for it own capital improvements and for such fringe benefits as social security payments and insurance for its employees who receive the same benefits as other university employes.
Because of these skyrocketing cost, plus other expenses, Gray says the entire surplus surplus could be wiped out in this fical year.
"It's so close (to going into red link) it scares me," he said. "We've got capital improvements for which the bills haven't come in yet. The inflationary costs are higher across the board and more than anybody anticipated.
"Operating costs are up so much more. It's just like your and my personal ones going up. The tight pinch here today is no reflection on Carl James, and it's no relection on Jim Kehoe. It's just an economic thing."
Because of internal bookkeeping methods, the actual money generated and spent in the athletic department is depressed and the real budget is more like $5 million, instead of the $3 million advertised.
For instance, donations to the Maryland Educational Foundation, which pays the costs of scholarships, are not included, since MEF is billed and pays directly to the university. The athletic department has paid only summer-school tuition the past two years.
Revenues in football and basketball are net fingers, not gross. For instanc, the football team produces approximately $620,000 at the gate last season. That figure includes guarantees from road games, but taxes and guarantees to visitors have been deducted.
Of the $3 million in its budget. Gray says one-third is generated from student fees, one-third form miscellaneous items such as television and radio revenues, concessions, advertising and Maryland's share to atlantic Cost Conference basketball tournament, television and bowl receipts.
Despite the budget crunch, there is nothing but public praise for james, former athletic director at Duke University and former executive director of the Sugar Bowl, from his employes.
"It's been a very smooth transition," said Jerry Claiborne, the Terrapin football coach. "Jim is more outspoken. Both accomplish what an athletic director is supposed to accomplish."
"I enjoyed working for Coach Kehoe," said Lefty Driesell, the basketball Coach. "He did a lot for the university, a lot for the program and a lot of me. Carl's been here six months and I'd have to say the same thing about him."
Bill Campbell, the former Maryland swimming coach and James' stiffest competitor for the job, still has many contacts at College Park and said: "I've heard nothing but nice things about him. Instead of being an athletic director, maybe he should have been a politican."
The most substantive issue on which Kehoe and James differ is the method of filling. Byrd Stadium for football games. Under Kehoe and promotion man Russ Potts, now the athletic director at Southern Methodist, the heory was: It is better to have a free admission than an empty seat.
On the day he was approved by the university's Board of Reagents, James said he intended to reduce the discount and free tickets and to emphasize selling full-price tickets.
Under one promotion plan with a major area food chain, it was possible to buy half-price tickets for all Maryland home football games except Penn State.
"The joke around here," said Gary, "was 'It won't be long before we have to give a prize to a guy who buys a full-prize ticket."
With fewer promotions last season, Maryland's football ticket renenues were approximately $620,000 after taxes for five home games, the same revenue that six home games generated in the 1977 season. That was an increase of 20 percent in revenue per game.
"We've got to increse the number of football season-ticket purchasers," said Gray. "We were lucky as hell on the whether last year."
"We will continue to have some (discount) days," James said. "But hopefully we'll get to the point where the place is sold out on a season basis.
Maryland football is at a caliber that you should not have to discount it."
James said the new theme for increasing season-ticket sales in football is : "Pride in your state university. We need your support to continue."
The new athletic director said that Maryland was fortunate, unlike some othe schools facing a financial crucnch, because seats are still available to be able to increase revenues. He said once all season tickets are sold, it is likely ticket prices would have to increase every three years to keep up with rising operating costs.
Of the four state schools in the conference, Maryland lags badly in season-ticket sales. Clemson sold 30,000 and North Carolina more than 24,000 last season, both season-ticket sellouts. Obviously, there is more competition for the sports dollar in the Washtington area.
A decade ago, Maryland was merely trying to regain fans and credibility as a majr sports power.
"We were averaging 12,000," said Kehoe. "We had to become known, establish an identity and hopefully build up a following. We felt if we could expose thousands of youngsters for a couple of decades to Maryland football and Maryland athletics, surely there would be some spinoff.
"We had to start all over and literally develop a whole new following."
There are other subtle-and not too subtle-differences in the way the department is being led.
According to a number of people interviewed, these conclusion can be formed:
James is willing to delegate more authority; Kehoe ran the department with an iron hand.
Kehoe was tougher to get money out of. "Getting Jim Kehoe to spend money was like pulling teeth," said on e athletic department employee. Yet, it was agreed, Kehoe supplied the whrewithal to run a successful program.
Kehoe's militaristic, outspoken style was perfectly suited for what was needed in 1969. And James's style is similarly suited now-keeping a fairly well-run program going and enhancing public relations.
Of the sources of revenues, only football ticket sales can grow appreciably. The basketball arena, Cole Field House, technically is sold out now and no one would dare raise the student fee again so soon (Kehoe got it raised last time at the risk of losing the fee entirely).
Yet, says Gray, some of the costs are increasing at staggering rates. They include:
Fringe benefits on payroll. These benefits cost the department about $334,000 on the $1 million payroll, a 40 percent increase over last year. Social security and hospitalization insurance (the department pays 80 percent of the premiums for every employee) are the main reasons.
Medical costs for the men's and women's teams. Two years ago, on Feb. 28, the training room cost, including all doctor bills, was $54,000 for the first eight months of the fiscal year. As of Feb. 28, 1979, the costs were $103,000-almost a 100 percent raise. The department found insurance on athletes so expensive it was cheaper to buy $2,500 deductible and pay smaller bills itself.
Travel. In two years, the cost of chartering an airplane to take the football team to Clemson has doubled. Gray says hotel rates have increased by 30 percent and food costs the same as everybody else's.
Other insurance. The department gets about 30 courtesy cars from area dealers in exchange for advertising. It saves the department at least $35,000 per year. The department pays for the insurance on the cars. In order to keep costs the same, the deductable was increased from $100 to $250. Oterhwise the rate would have increased 75 percent. Gray said.
At least the Maryland Educational Foundation, the department's fund-raising arm, has covered all remaining scholarship costs-both men's and women's-for the past two years, (other than summer school), according to Gray.
But the MEF has not recovered from a mediocre campaign on the field in 1977-78, when a 7-4 football season-helped keep MEF from reaching its goal for the first time under Fields, who came with time under Fields, who came with Kehoe. The foundation, however, kept its streak alive by saying that donatons and interest equalled the $800,000 goal.
This year the goal is $850,000-including donations and interest, according to Fields-and the pace is about $20,000 ahead of last year.
For the first time this year, 75 of the $500 donors to the MEF were unable to purchase tickets to the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament because Maryland's allotment ran out. Some of those 75 have already incresed their donations to $1,000.
"It's getting to the point where people realize the ACC ticket is tough to come by," Feilds said. When you're at the tournament and when you consider, these people contributed $10 million presumably so they could be there, there's a reason fro the excitement."