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Dividing up the pie

By Dan Rosen
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 21, 2000
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Football, men's basketball provide revenue for 17 other UA

At a university with only two sports - football and men's basketball - that make more money than they receive, 17 other Division I sports are left to fight for a slice of the $26 million pie that is the athletic budget.

UA athletic director Jim Livengood, however, believes that nobody is fighting - they all deserve a piece of the pie.

"We look at our 19 sports, and they are never ever evaluated as to who makes money and who doesn't, that would be so unfair," he said. "For those student athletes in those 19 sports, we would never want them to think, 'Well, our sport is not really important because we don't generate any revenue.' That just doesn't make any sense."

Livengood was also quick to credit the staff in the athletic department for the success that UA has achieved over the past decade.

"We have a staff that is second to none, and we have so many people on our staff that don't get enough credit for what they do," he said. "Everything we do, we are trying to get better at because that is what the university is all about."

The 'money makers' give back

Football and men's basketball, the "money makers" in the athletic department, brought in about $18 million of the $25.5 million - or about 70 percent - that the UA made in 1997-98. That money filtered in by different avenues, including gate receipts, corporate sponsors, TV and radio deals, gifts, concessions, state appropriations and parking.

By comparison, those same two programs account for about $10 million of the $15 million the UA spends to "upkeep" its sports. Arizona also spends an additional $11 million for various support services.

But, according to Livengood and most UA coaches, this method of redistribution is needed to support all 19 teams.

Dave Murray, the director of the men's and women's track and field/cross country at UA, said his team and other non-revenue sports have to rely on the money makers.

"A lot of times when I go to football games, I look at the crowd," Murray said. "I'm counting bodies as much as I look at the game because it helps support my program."

Although the smaller UA sports such as track and field and cross country bring in minimal revenue, they still have to be funded so the UA can stay competitive among the nation's top 10 collegiate programs.

"There is not a lot of opportunity to generate funds for those sports," said John Perrin, UA senior associated athletic director. "Rick LaRose, the head men's golf coach, has done a great job of putting on a fundraising golf tournament that he funds a lot of his stuff from."

UA baseball head coach Jerry Stitt said each program has its own sport interest group that is part of the Wildcat Club and the UA Foundation to help bring in funds.

For the baseball team, it's the Dugout Club, which helps out with most of the team's annual funding.

"It all adds up together for us to afford some things that are not provided by our budget," Stitt said. "If we don't have it in our Dugout Club to go to Hawaii, then we don't go to Hawaii. If we don't have it in our Dugout Club to put chair backs at Sancet Field, then we don't put chair backs."

Fighting for the pie

In order to get money from the athletic department, each department head or head coach must submit a new program budget for the upcoming year.

"They have to rejustify their expenses for the year," Perrin said. "Once we get all the requests together, we look at what we think we are going to generate through revenues, and we allocate the money out for those requests. We do have to be conservative, and that has been a good philosophy for us."

Officials at the athletic department believe the conservative approach is the best way to go because they have to take into account postseason appearances in the budget as well as television deals - both of which are unknown factors at the start of the year.

Murray said his proposal to the athletic department varies from year to year because of recruiting, travel and operations.

"I give them a ballpark figure according to how many people I have on my team," he said. "We also have to look down the road in recruiting because if I have a lot of scholarships open, my recruiting budget needs to be bigger. But, if I have a lot of runners returning, then my recruiting budget is smaller."

Murray said it is expensive to finance the track and cross country programs because the team has about 80 athletes who need quality equipment, not to mention the traveling expenses.

According to Murray, a pole vault costs $15,000, hurdles run between $150-200 each, a vaulting pit is $15,000 and a single discus runs about $200-300.

In 1997-98, the track and field/cross country programs for both men and women received $664,054 from the UA, while bringing in only $18,385.

"Track and field is a very expensive sport to upkeep, and it is also the second largest team at UA behind football," Murray said. "But I have always felt that we have been treated fairly. Obviously, any coach would want more. We don't get a gold mine, but the athletic department doesn't leave the cupboard bare either."

Changing times

Because the athletic department only receives a minimal amount from the UA - about $1.5 million each year - gaining corporate sponsors has become a necessity rather than a luxury. This was not always the case, though.

Asking businesses to sponsor the program was once looked down upon, according to Robert S. Svob, the assistant athletic director from 1948-56. At that time, athletic department officials were opposed to any type of advertising.

Svob said the department had a policy that would not allow advertising in the gym or on the field.

"We felt it was amateur athletics, and we wanted to keep it that way," Svob said.

Although Svob and the rest of the athletic department officials believed advertising did not have a place in amateur athletics, they did realize that the times were changing and it would become inevitable that advertising would take over.

"It is the thing all over the country - the coaches and administrators have to keep up if they want to compete," he said. "It bothers me, but it is a sign of the times and it is pretty hard to fight what has happened in our society today. You can't protest. Sometimes, you just have to throw up your hands and say it's here."

Svob also recognized the need for universities to bring in more money.

"The cost of intercollegiate athletics has skyrocketed, so that makes it parallel to the funding for intercollegiate athletics," said Svob, who later served as the dean of men (1956-72) and dean of students (1972-83).

"The university itself has also become a research institute, so it is proportionally about the same."

Dan Rosen can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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