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Volume 69, Issue 67, Monday, December 1, 2003


Athletics runs $10.4 million deficit in '03

By Ray Hafner
The Daily Cougar

The Athletics Department managed to trim its budget deficit to $10.4 million last year and plans to make further reductions as part of a three-year plan that will increase revenue and cut spending, Athletics Director Dave Maggard said.

The $400,000 reduction for fiscal year 2003, from $10.8 million in FY 02, is the first time the deficit has shrunk since 1999, when the department spent $5.6 million more than it made in revenue.

With total expenditures down to $21.5 million, Maggard said the department planned to cut the deficit even more -- to $9 million in 2004, $8 million by 2005 and $7 million in 2006.

"The plan for the future is, we need to increase our revenue and decrease our expenses," he said. "Itis a big-time challenge for us, thereis no question about it."

The deficit has been a recurring issue on campus because some faculty members say it takes away from spending on education. Former UH President Arthur K. Smith instructed Maggard to make a 2 percent cut in spending last spring. To make the cuts, Maggard eliminated two executive positions.

Revenue in the department was also up slightly in 2003, to $11.2 million.

"The real downturn that occurred in Houston athletics has been something that has put the program in a very deep hole," Maggard said. "Our sports program really hasnit had a lot of credibility in either football or basketball, the two main revenue-generating sports."

Ticket sales for menis basketball are behind last yearis, Maggard said. "We still have some sports we havenit done well in; basketball is one of them," he said.

Two areas hurting the department were the rising cost of tuition, which increases the cost of athletic scholarships, and hiring a new football staff with the arrival of head coach Art Briles.

"We made a whole new change in football staff," Maggard said. "We absorbed all of that."

Maggard said future deficit reductions would occur by increasing football and menis basketball attendance and conducting an aggressive fund-raising drive.

"We need to raise at least $1 million in Cougar Pride dollars," Maggard said.

Cougar Pride was begun last semester to give fund raising a more grass roots feel and to bring in more small donors, Maggard said.

The money raised by Cougar Pride is also set to increase by $1 million each year for the next three years -- a significant challenge, Maggard said, considering the University as a whole only takes in $2.5 million in private donations each year.

Maggard said he also intends to increase communication with, and cultivation of, alumni. "I find that there are thousands of alums who have never been back on this campus," he said.

The department also plans on luring corporate sponsors with ticket and signage packages. "Our fund raising canit be just with our alums," Maggard said. "It has to be outreach with business people, the corporate community."

One of the areas in which the department can save money is travel. Those costs may decrease when conference alignment changes take place in 2005.

"I think the change in Conference USA may turn out to be a real help for us, and Iill tell you why: We have no business going to DePaul to play softball," Maggard said.

The realignment will add Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa to the conference. Maggard said those schools are much closer to UH and could potentially become rivals.

"Those are certainly a lot easier than Louisville or Cincinnati, so I think that could be a good positive thing for us," he said.

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