Athletic deficit closing in on $10M


POSTED: Thursday, February 18, 2010

The University of Hawaii athletic department's cumulative deficit hit $8 million during the 2009 fiscal year and UH officials project the deficit to break the $10 million mark after the current year.

The figures were presented to the UH Board of Regents Committee on University Audits yesterday at Bachman Hall. The UH athletic department audit will be presented to the full board today at its monthly meeting.

UH athletics ran a deficit of $2.63 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year, which ended June 30, driving the department's total debt to $8.05 million, according to the audit.

In a presentation to the committee, UH athletic director Jim Donovan said the department is projected to post an estimated $2.1 million deficit for the current fiscal year, according to numbers through Feb. 1.

That number figures to fluctuate based on the performances of men's volleyball and baseball in the spring, but could push the total deficit to $10.1 million at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year.

UH was operating in the black through 2001, dropped into the deficit in 2002 and has fallen deeper since. The exception was the 2008 fiscal year, when revenue from the UH football team's appearance in the Sugar Bowl — approximately $2.4 million — gave the department a profit of $295,243.

The department had about $28.7 million in expenses in 2008-09, a slight drop compared to the previous year's total of $28.8. Donovan noted that the department has reduced expenses by not filling vacant positions and cutting administration and support service costs.

Women's volleyball led the UH programs by turning a profit of $84,071 for the 2008 season. Football showed a $1.5 million deficit, though Donovan said football accounts for most of UH's pay-per-view revenue of $2.5 million, which would push the program into the black.

In his presentation, Donovan pointed out that UH was at or close to the top of the Western Athletic Conference in ticket revenue ($8.6 million) and fundraising ($5.2 million) for the 2007-08 year.

Donovan said a proposal for a student activity fee remains under consideration. The proposal would charge students $50 per semester which could generate about $2 million. The plan calls for students to be allocated a larger section at sporting events.

The regents will also consider a proposal at this morning's meeting to change the price rangs the athletic department can charge for tickets. The proposal would raise the ceiling on ticket prices, though few changes are planned for next season.

If the proposal is approved by the board, UH is considering charging a higher rate for the football season opener against USC and a $20 increase to the premium seat contribution for those seats closest to the midfield at Aloha Stadium and center court at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Donovan said UH generated revenue by lowering ticket prices and providing family packages in selected sections.

“;The bottom line is we're going to try to keep the prices as low as possible but at the same time balance the need for more revenue for our budget,”; Donovan said.

“;My philosophy is when seats are all getting filled up, then we can look at price increases. Until then we have to be very selective at our price increases.”;