Football at the University of New Mexico (UNM) cost nearly as much in allocated expenses last fiscal year as 19 other sports combined, according to a new analysis of data provided to the federal government by the UNM athletic department. The financial context comes amid continuing suggestions by ski-team advocates that cutting skiing will provide substantially less than the $600,000 dollars in annual savings previously announced by the school.
The University of New Mexico, like all American co-educational colleges or universities that receive federal financial aid and sponsor intercollegiate sports, is required to submit certain information annually to the U.S. Department of Education under the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, or EADA. While the announced purpose of this data collection, visible at the EADA reporting site, is to help support gender equity in college sports, the data also permit an approximation of a school’s overall athletic department budget.
And the data show that, at UNM as elsewhere, football is king. The school reported total expenses for football, in the 2015 fiscal year (July 2015 – June 2016), of, in round numbers, $9.1 million. Men’s basketball cost $3.7 million, and women’s basketball $2.0 million, for a combined total of $5.7 million. The 19 other varsity sports at UNM had expenses of $9.9 million combined, or approximately $521,000 per sport. (This counts men’s and women’s teams as separate sports, as is standard for NCAA reporting and Title IX purposes even though skiing is, uniquely, scored on a coed basis. This also suggests that each of men’s and women’s skiing, at approximately $300,000 per sport given a total cost of $600,000, is cheaper than the average sport at UNM.)
The University of New Mexico currently sponsors 22 NCAA Division I varsity sports. In addition to football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball, the other 19 sports are: men’s baseball, men’s cross-country running, men’s golf, men’s skiing, men’s soccer, men’s tennis, men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field, women’s beach volleyball, women’s cross-country running, women’s golf, women’s skiing, women’s soccer, women’s softball, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, women’s indoor track and field, women’s outdoor track and field, and women’s volleyball.
Two UNM sports teams have won an NCAA championship in any of those 22 sports: skiing in 2004, and women’s cross-country running in 2015.
There are some reasons for caution regarding the expense data. Nearly every single revenue and expense figure matches up, dollar for dollar, within the report. That is, football apparently had expenses of $9,137,178 last fiscal year, but had revenue of precisely $9,137,178 as well.
Another weakness with these numbers is the gap between sport-specific and unallocated expenses. The EADA site lists an additional $10.5 million in expenses “Not Allocated by Gender/Sport” (the penultimate line in the screenshot above). So while roughly $25 million in athletic department expenses are broken down by sport and gender, an additional $10 million more is not attributable to any given sport. That’s nearly 30 percent of the listed total athletic department budget.
Finally, the bottom-line figure of the EADA document shows the UNM athletic department as reporting total revenue for the 2015 fiscal year of $35,338,508 and total expenses of precisely the same amount, suggesting that it neither made nor lost money last year. This suggestion clashes with both external reporting by the Albuquerque Journal and an internal financial memo sent to the UNM Board of Regents (see pages 243-248) by then-UNM President Bob Frank, both of which suggested that the UNM athletics department had a budget deficit of $1.54 million in fiscal year 2015. (Off revenue of $31.8 million and expenses of $33.3 million, both of which are less than the $35.3 million figure reported through EADA.)
The $1.54 million deficit figure is correct, UNM assistant athletic director Frank Mercogliano clarified in an email to FasterSkier. “There are certain numbers that go into the EADA report that are different than what we refer to here as the ‘actual budget,’ ” Mercogliano wrote to FasterSkier Tuesday. “The ‘actual budget’ numbers are the ones that the Journal reported on… the one with the deficit.”
Mercogliano added, “I personally have never seen the EADA report but I have been told that is why there are always differences in the numbers.”
Paul Krebs, UNM vice president for athletics, “didn’t have specific sport-by-sport figures,” the Albuquerque Journal reported last summer. But he acknowledged that “football, despite a winning season and a bowl game appearance, lost money and men’s basketball, despite a downturn in ticket sales, made the largest profit in the department.”
Men’s basketball marks the only portion of the EADA report listing different numbers for revenue and expenses. The figures given there suggest that men’s basketball earned $2,225,538 in profit for the athletic department last fiscal year.
If the UNM football team indeed lost money, it has ample company. The Washington Post reported in November 2015 that 28 of the 48 “Power Five” schools (those schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, the five wealthiest college athletic conferences) saw their athletic department operate at a loss in 2014. And that included schools like Wisconsin, Auburn and Michigan State, whose annual athletic department revenues of $104 to $123 million dwarfed the $32 million figure for UNM last year.
The Washington Post article did not consider UNM, nor any other school outside the Power Five conferences. All 48 Power Five conference schools had substantially more revenue in 2014 than UNM.
And finally, back to the ski team. The UNM athletic department initially announced that “The decision [to cut skiing] will save the department approximately $600,000 per year in operating budget, scholarships and salaries.” Ski team supporters have since countered that “The Ski Team’s annual budget is actually only about $285,000 for the university as a whole, not the $600,000 figure the Athletic Department claims it will save by cutting the team.” The explanation given is, “This is mostly because the largest line item in the Ski Team budget is scholarships paid out of the Athletic Department budget, but paid TO the university’s main campus.”
On Tuesday, the UNM Board of Regents met in Albuquerque. It was greeted outside by sign-waving attendees showing their support for the ski team. A video from inside the meeting shows multiple people speaking in support of the ski team.
The next scheduled Board of Regents meeting is the budget approval meeting on May 11.
Gavin Kentch is a lifelong Alaskan. He skis with the Alaska Pacific University Masters team in Anchorage, plays with his two adorable daughters, and occasionally works as a solo attorney. He has a cat named Marit. He was probably on snow this year before you were.