A lucrative new media-rights deal is expected to grow revenue for Golden Gophers athletics by $17 million next year, but the University of Minnesota’s academic side won’t get a share of that windfall.
As recently as September, President Eric Kaler predicted Minnesota soon would join the short list of universities whose athletics programs rake in more money than they spend.
“I expect us to be able to do that as new media money comes into the Big Ten,” he said during a Sept. 8 budget work session with the Board of Regents.
But three months later, after a bowl win and a sexual assault scandal, the U fired its football coaching staff. In the process, the athletics department saddled itself with $7.1 million in one-time transition costs and a new head coach who will make $2 million a year more than his predecessor.
That’s on top of an $8.45 million hole in this year’s athletics budget caused by weak football ticket sales, a budgeting error and a buyout paid to Syracuse University for hiring away its athletics director, Mark Coyle.
When all that’s paid off, the athletics budget will start making loan payments on Athletes Village, the $166 million basketball and football practice facility slated to open around the end of this year. The U has secured donations for only about half the cost of the complex.
Altogether, the financial struggles have taken the prospect of Gopher athletics contributing to the U’s academic mission off the table for the near future.
“I think we can certainly look at it, but right now, getting them back onto firm financial footing with all the things that they have going on, which is substantial, is top of mind for me,” Brian Burnett, the U’s senior vice president for finance and operations, said in an interview.