The University of Utah spent over $95 million to fund athletics during the 2019-20 academic year, according to the athletic department’s fiscal 2020 financial report, released last week.
The athletic department’s fiscal 2020 ran from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, a time which coincided with the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and in turn, a suspension of all athletics-related activities.
The $95.185 million in expenses was reported against revenues of $97.217 million, meaning Utah’s athletic department finished the fiscal year in the black to the tune of $2.031 million. This marks at least the seventh consecutive fiscal year in which Utah’s athletic department reports a seven-figure profit. Utah’s publicly-available database of financial reports goes back to fiscal 2014.
The revenue and expenses for fiscal 2020 are both down from record-highs in fiscal 2019 ($99.53 million in revenue vs. $96 million in expenses), both at least partially a result of the pandemic.
In the wake of the NCAA canceling it’s men’s basketball tournament, the college sports governing body announced it would distribute $225 million in June to Division I schools. The original distribution was budgeted at $600 million, with payments going to go out in April. That reduction represented a 67.5% decrease from what was expected.
That factor is evident in Utah’s revenue as it reported $2,577,277 under it’s “NCAA distribution” line, which the school defines says includes “NCAA sport sponsorships, NCAA grant-based aid, Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund subsidies, academic enhancements, NCAA reimbursements for postseason participation, and any NCAA distributions that pass through the Pac-12 Conference.”
By comparison, Utah reported $3,466,077 on the “NCAA distribution” line in fiscal 2019 and $3,244,473 in fiscal 2018.
Expenses were down in fiscal 2020, in part because the late-winter/spring sports Utah sponsors — baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse, golf, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s track and field — were all canceled because of the pandemic. That means no travel expenses usually associated with those sports.
Furthermore, in-person recruiting grinded to a halt in all sports at the outset of the virus, which has saved the athletic department six-figures worth of travel in that area. Kyle Whittingham’s football program generally spends north of $1 million for recruiting, but spent just $738,446 for fiscal 2020.
As Power Five football continues to be a driving force in college athletics, so too is Utah football within its athletic department. Utes football raked in a profit of $32.28 million for fiscal 2020, which included $15.3 million in ticket sales across an unbeaten seven-game home schedule during the 2019 season.
Utah reported a net distribution from the Pac-12 of $32,309,663. Within that, the media rights distribution to the athletic department came out to $24,840,465, with 85% of that allocated to football and the other 15% to men’s basketball.
In a wide-ranging interview earlier this month with The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah athletic Mark Harlan estimated that the athletic department is going to finish fiscal 2021 with a $35 million budget deficit, but that is actually $15-25 million less than he once feared if the 2020 football season wasn’t played.
In an effort to close that gap, the athletic department is expected to take a loan. On that front, there are two options, either acquire the loan from central campus, or acquire it from the Pac-12. Outgoing league commissioner Larry Scott said ahead of last month’s Pac-12 championship game that athletic departments will have the option to borrow against future earnings.