Utah football: Utes far behind Pac-12 rivals in budget race
If you need to find ways to be a little more frugal and still be successful in the current economy, perhaps you should talk to Utah athletic director Chris Hill.
According to some comparisons in a recent Sports Business Journal article, the Utes, whose success earned them an invite to the Pac-12 and has made the school a more prominent name nationwide, have an athletic budget that is almost half that of the other schools in the Pac-12.
Utah is working with a budget of $29.7 million in 2011 and is expected to have a budget of $35 million in 2012. Overall, the school has seen an increase of 25.9 percent from 2010 when it had a budget of $27.8 million. According to the report, only Louisville, which is looking at a 31.3 percent increase from $52.4 million in 2010 to $68.8 million in 2012, and Michigan, which is increasing 29.8 percent from $84.6 million in 2010 to $109.8 million in 2012, are seeing a bigger rise than the Utes.
However, with a median budget of $55.8 million in the Pac-12, the Utes remain far behind their league competitors.
Washington State is the closest with a budget of $38.5 million for 2011, while Oregon has the largest budget, working with $84.5 million.
Budgets for Stanford and Cal were not available.
Hill wasn't surprised by the gap, which is why he has stressed how critical fundraising is for the Utes as they head into the Pac-12.
"It's a big gap," he said. "What happened this year is we were able to increase in some good areas like fundraising, licensing fees and Under Armour and we don't have any debt, but it is still a big gap."
Hill said he has been able to increase fundraising from about $6 million annually to almost $8 million annually. Fundraising dollars are especially vital for the Utes since they don't become a full-share member of the Pac-12 until 2014-15.
"We've got good people who are supporting us, but we are stepping into a different realm and we are going to need support services and coaches and players to compete against the Pac-12, but indications are people are supportive."
According to the report, of the 52 schools that provided annual budgets, 30 have increased their spending by 10 percent or more in the past three years. The SEC schools had the largest median budgets, averaging $90.3 million.
"I'm not exactly sure where it will go," Hill said of the rising budgets. "The TV market itself has grown and I am wondering when that end is up, but I do know there is some concern among presidents."
Running back John White, cornerback Mo Lee and safety Keith McGill are just three of several junior college transfers who could have prominent roles for the Utes this season.
Taking JC players is always a bit of a risk, as many have academic struggles or take so long to learn new systems they can't contribute immediately. However, Utah has had good luck with transfers recently, including lineman John Cullen and running back Tauni Vakapuna, who both contributed last year.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he prefers to recruit high school players for the long term, but occasionally there are holes the Utes must fill with transfer players.
"You expect those guys, their readiness to play, to be far beyond the high school guys," he said.
Conference median budgets
ACC • $60.5 million
Big 12 • $57.8 million
Big East • $62.0 million
Big Ten • $78.8 million
Pac-12 • $55.8 million
SEC • $90.3 million
Source • Sports Business Journal.