Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series examining the athletic department’s budget. The final installment will run on April 19.
In October, CSU’s football team defeated Mountain West Conference rival New Mexico, 35-25. However, when it comes to each school’s athletic budget, the Lobos are a decisive winner.
For the current financial year, UNM’s athletic budget will be approximately $23 million, while CSU’s expenses will come in at around $15.3 million. CSU and UNM are similar in enrollment and cost, so why does one public state university spend so much more money on athletics than the other?
One major difference between UNM and CSU is the amount of state funding that goes to each program. The Lobos received approximately $2.6 million from the state of New Mexico, specifically earmarked for the athletics department, according to a UNM athletic department official.
In January, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pledged an additional $15 million of state money to help renovate UNM’s basketball arena and add workout and locker rooms for other sports.
By comparison, CSU’s athletic department did not receive any money directly from the state of Colorado. CSU’s athletic department does use university support money to the tune of $2 million, and while some of that money comes from the state, there is no way to gauge the exact amount.
Even with the Referendum C money that CSU will receive from the state starting this year, it is unlikely that the athletic department is going to see a substantial amount of the money, CSU President Larry Penley told the Student Fee Review Board (SFRB) on April 3.
“Our most important priority will be trying to work on bettering the student-to-faculty ratio on campus,” Penley said. “I’m not sure where athletics will fit into the plan.”
One surprising difference when comparing the two schools is the amount of student fees received by each athletic department. UNM students pay approximately $1 million in student fees that are allocated for their athletic department. By comparison, CSU students paid $2.5 million last year for their varsity sport programs.
In addition, the SFRB gave preliminary approval Monday to increase student fees by $17.06 a semester. This proposed increase will give the athletic department an additional $1.2 million a year. If approved by the ASCSU senate, CSU students will end up paying $2.7 million more than their UNM counterparts toward sports.
UNM is not the only school in the conference that has a higher athletic budget than CSU – in fact, CSU has the lowest athletic budget in the entire conference, according to numbers given out by Penley to the SFRB. The school with the largest athletic budget is the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA).
The USAFA’s budget for the current year is $24 million. The federal government gave the USAFA $9 million for its athletic department. The other $15 million is made up mainly of tickets and merchandise sales, according to Troy Garnhart, media relations director of the USAFA.
One disadvantage for the USAFA, however, is that they are not allowed to solicit money from alumni and boosters.
“Since we are a federal institution, we are not allowed to have fund raisers like the other schools in the conference,” Garnhart said.
One way to raise more money for the athletic department is by having a VIP program for students that would guarantee good seating at major sporting events, according to University of Utah athletics accountant Steve Smith. Utah currently has a program where students can pay an extra $25 on top of their student fees. The extra $25 enables students to have improved seating for football and basketball games and also receive NCAA tournament tickets before they go on sale to the general public.
If CSU were to introduce a similar $25 VIP plan and a quarter of the student population enrolled, the athletics department would have an additional $100,000 from the students. Jeff Holt, a sophomore art major, would be interested in a VIP club at CSU.
“I would want to see what kind of privileges you get from it, but I would probably join it,” Holt said.
The SFRB will meet on April 17 to vote on recommendations for all student fee increases, including the $17 athletics increase.
Mike Donovan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org