MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University’s athletics department, nearly $13 million in the red during fiscal year 2011-12, projects only about a $50,000 shortfall this year, Oliver Luck told the WVU faculty senate Monday.
“That may change a little bit as we sell season tickets and get the Mountaineer Athletic Club going during the course of May and June,” said Luck, the school’s athletics director. “But we feel very comfortable that we’ll have a very small shortfall.”
The current fiscal year ends June 30.
Luck once again anchored last year’s debt to the $20 million exit fee West Virginia paid the Big East Conference in order to realign with the Big 12. His department also paid $500,000 to buy out a football matchup against Florida State. WVU’s athletic revenue was $80,064,869, ranking 28th nationally, but it spent $92,968,960 (13th highest). The athletic department received about $4.4 million in subsidies from the university.
“Go back to fiscal year 11-12, take out some of those extraordinary items, and we actually would have had a net adjusted income of $5.6 million,” Luck said.
The Mountaineers will receive only a half-share of their Big 12 revenue this year, incrementally escalating to 67 percent in fiscal-year-ending 2014 and 85 percent in 2015 before finally netting a full share in 2015-16.
“We recognized that going into this conference we would have a couple of challenging years financially,” Luck said. “But over the long term, certainly beginning in the fiscal year 14-15, we’re projecting to see some significant operating surpluses.”
Luck claimed WVU’s outstanding loan debt ($30 million) is the lowest of the Big 12’s eight public institutions, with its league counterparts averaging loan debt that exceeds $100 million.
“When you read about the arms race in college athletics, there’s a lot of folks who borrowed a lot of money to build a lot of infrastructure,” he said. So we’re glad that we can compete all the great things that put you in the Big 12, but also that we’re able to do that in a relatively prudent fashion.”
Along with increasing travel expenses, WVU’s position as the Big 12’s geographical outlier creates concerns about late-returning athletes not being fresh for class. One faculty member said she witnessed the grades of some athletes suffering during finals.
Luck, however, said WVU’s teams coped well with this year’s new travel demands.
“We’ve had instances where one of the basketball teams will get home at 3 or 4 in the morning,” he said. “We encourage them to get up in the morning and get to class, and certainly Coach Huggins and Coach Carey will have ‘em do all sorts of drills if they don’t.
“I haven’t seen any other evidence of any academic challenges beyond the two basketball programs.”
Luck said WVU sends tutors and academic advisers on some charter flights, helping maximize the study opportunities for athletes away from campus. He also recounted requests WVU made for Big 12 basketball regarding earlier start times for weeknight road games and scheduling a Saturday-Monday layover that consumes two travel games before spring semester.