RENO, Nev. — The University of Nevada athletic program was on target to avoid a spending deficit for the second year in a row but will likely fall $500,000 short due to the expense of hiring a new football coaching staff, the athletic director said.
Doug Knuth said he expects the department to fall short of the break-even point when the books are closed on the 2013 fiscal year that ended on June 30.
Longtime football coach Chris Ault suddenly retired this year, which resulted in a number of unanticipated expenses tied primarily to bringing in a new coaching staff, Knuth said. The Wolf Pack staff under first-year coach Brian Polian will make about $150,000 more than last year’s coaches.
“There were some increases in the salary pool that were not budgeted and not planned, but it’s something you have to do when you hire a new staff and bring in new people,” Knuth told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“And there were a few things Brian wanted to do right off the bat when he got here in January and February that were non-budgeted but we felt were important for what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go.”
After some rough financial years, the Wolf Pack made a $50,000 profit in fiscal year 2012. The department had dug a $1.2 million deficit in fiscal years 2010 and 2011, with each year carrying at least a $450,000 deficit. The roughly $500,000 hole this past fiscal year is a noticeable financial shortcoming.
“It’s a rounding error for some schools. But it’s a big deal for us and we’ll have a plan for the president to let him know how we’ll reduce and eliminate the deficit as we go forward,” Knuth said.
The Wolf Pack’s athletic budget last year was about $20 million, an increase of about $2 million from the previous season, he said. Still, it was the lowest in the Mountain West. When Knuth accepted the job in April, taking the reins from the retiring Cary Groth, he knew the financial battle.
“It’s just a tough uphill climb. As you know, we are the 11th-largest budget in the Mountain West. I like to say it that way rather than saying, ‘the smallest budget.’ If you know we have 11 schools in our conference, you know we’re last,” he said.
Nevada can’t expect to win championships if that’s the case, Knuth said.
One of the reasons school president Marc Johnson hired Knuth is because of his history as a fundraiser as an assistant athletic director at Utah and Michigan State. One of the biggest areas of potential growth at Nevada would be through football ticket sales.
The difference between average attendance at a home football game and a sellout is roughly $300,000 to $400,000 a game. If Nevada were able to sell out an entire football season, a lofty goal, it could raise an addition $1.8 million to $2.4 million.
“Money isn’t everything in competitive sports, but it is certainly something,” Knuth said.