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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah athletic director Chris Hill, left, Utah interim president Lorris Betz, and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott were all smiles when the Utes celebrated joining the Pac-12, but Hill says three years later, the school walks a thin financial line in competing in its new league
Utah athletics: Utes in the big leagues, but not yet in the big money

Utes making more, but also spending more with move to better conference.

First Published Feb 08 2014 03:23 pm • Last Updated Feb 08 2014 10:11 pm

Details of newly hired offensive coordinator Dave Christensen’s contract haven’t been released, but here is hoping the Utes didn’t drop more than, say, $193,543 in hiring the former Wyoming coach.

Because if they did, the 2013-14 athletic budget could be shot.

At a glance

Utah’s athletic budget — then and now

Below is a look at some of Utah’s expenses and revenues before and after the Utes joined the Pac-12.

Expenses 2010-11 2013-14

Compensation 11,301,851 19,946,015

Tuition and fees 2,162,125 3,823,436

Travel 3,424757 5,515,981

Public relations 775,600 1,303,250

Stadium rental 435,000 1,163,333

Pre-Post season expenses 29,011,663 53,305,836

Revenues 2010-11 2013-14

Student Fees 5,073197 6,065,932

Football ticket sales 6,050,000 9,530,000

Men’s basketball ticket sales 1,900,000 1,650,000

Donations 4,980,000 7,510,000

National TV 1,244,444 12,288,574

Conference distributions 750,000 2,158,000

Pre-post season revenues 29,220,323 53,499,379

Pac-12 expenses, revenues

Expenses and Revenues for Pac-12 schools 2012-13:

School Expenses Revenue Profit

USC 97,802,254 97,802,254 0

Stanford 90,490,234 90,490,234 0

UCLA 83,926,720 83,926,720 0

Washington 76,209,927 85,072,886 8,862,959

Oregon 75,600,113 81,374,469 5,774,356

Cal 76,362,086 91,815,125 15,453,039

Colorado 66,327,498 66,327,498 0

Arizona 66,069,736 66,327,515 257,779

ASU 63,697,017 63,770,785 73,768

Oregon St. 59,037,448 60,193,022 1,155,574

Utah 51,792,903 51,792,903 0

Washington St. 50,154,279 50,154,279 0

Source: US Department of Education

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That amount represents the projected profit for the Utes for the 2013-14 season in their athletic budget when all the salaries are paid, the student-athletes are taken care of and when all the ticket stubs are counted and national TV contracts split.

If you are thinking it doesn’t sound like much, you aren’t alone.

"It’s a pretty thin line we are skating," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said.

Details of Utah’s athletic budget reveal just how thin of a line it is. Utah’s move to the Pac-12 has brought more money, but it has forced the Utes to spend more as well.

Consider that in 2010-11, Utah’s last year in the Mountain West Conference, the Utes spent $29 million and made $208,660.

The profits have stayed virtually the same, but Utah’s athletic budget has grown to spend a projected $53.3 million this year.

Much of the expense relates to building new or improved facilities, increasing salaries and other costs the school felt it needed shell out for to catch up to the rest of the Pac-12.

For instance, Utah’s new football facility is seen as a big lure for recruits, but it brings an increased strain on Utah’s budget, too, requiring $669,251 in facility management and $954,535 in cafeteria operations a year, according to the budget.

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"We had to build a lot of infrastructure with the move to the Pac-12," Hill said. "We went from being a mom and pa shop to the Pac-12. The staff was stretched thin, too, so we had to do a lot of things to do right by our student-athletes and staff so we could be competitive."

While Utah has seen a large increase in its budget, it ranks next-to-last in the Pac-12 in terms of athletic spending. USC doled out $97.8 million to run its athletic teams according to data from the 2012-13 academic year reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Trojans reported an estimated profit of the same amount, leaving them without a profit. Stanford, UCLA, Colorado, Utah and Washington State also reported no gains.

Cal, which reported $37.6 million in revenue by its football team, led the Pac-12 with an estimated profit of $15.4 million. However the Bears are still trying to figure out how to pay the estimated $250 million tab for their facility upgrades.

In comparison to such huge figures, Utah’s budget still seems paltry.

The good news is the Utes think the worst of their Pac-12 budget crunch is behind them. The deal the school accepted to become a member of the Pac-12 in 2011 was to enter as less than a full share member, receiving nothing the first year, then earning increasing shares until becoming a full-fledged member in 2014-15.

This year the Utes are receiving 75 percent of the Pac-12 revenue which includes $12.2 million in national TV revenue and $2.1 million in conference revenue, which is mainly from bowl games, Hill said.

That money might be a drop in the bucket compared to other Pac-12 schools, but it will keep the Utes afloat.

"We are thinking we have made it through the toughest part," Hill said. "The first and second years were difficult, but now at a three-quarters share and full share next year, that is going to help us a lot. We feel like we are in a good position."

Hill is cautiously optimistic, realizing surprises can always occur that blow the budget. For instance, the Utes didn’t realize all the costs that would be involved in hosting Pac-12 Network events, which are taking $1.7 million out of athletics budget.

"Even a snowstorm on a basketball game night can have a big effect," he said. "We are more optimistic we are going to be fine and can pay our bills, but the reality is a lot of people thought the Brinks truck came when we went to the Pac-12. But it didn’t."

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