The University of Texas at El Paso football program’s losses on the field, coupled with declining attendance, have hit the athletic department’s pocketbook.
That means UTEP has had to spend more money each year to subsidize the athletic department.
Revenue from ticket sales at home football games fell to $582,469 during the 2016 season. That compares to almost $1.2 million in ticket sales the previous season. The Miners failed to finish both seasons with a winning record.
“If we have less ticket sales, then we have to make up the difference somewhere else,” said Gary Edens, vice president of student affairs at UTEP.
“It’s all a balancing act as far as the revenue stream,” Edens said. “That changes any given year based on the performance of the team and how many people want to give.”
In 10 years, the football team has only had one winning season.
Home football game attendance is in decline, UTEP athletic department records show. This season, home game attendance dipped to an average of 19,548 – the lowest since the 1984 season. And UTEP has had to spend more money each year to support the athletic department.
In 2016, UTEP reported the athletic department had $32.5 million in expenses and a total operating revenue of $32.7 million. The revenue includes more than $6 million from student fees and $9.9 million in support from the university. That’s the most UTEP has had to contribute to the athletic department in at least seven years.
El Paso Inc. obtained UTEP’s filings with the National Collegiate Athletic Association through an open records request. They detail how much UTEP has spent to support the athletic department from 2010 to 2016. The 2017 budget has not been filed yet.
The university has spent a little more than $90 million to support the athletic department over the last seven years. The growing cost to maintain UTEP’s state-of-the-art facilities, pay coaches and staff, fund scholarships, transport players and recruit, coupled with declining ticket sales, has put more financial burden on the school.
The football and basketball programs are the largest athletic operations at UTEP and produce a majority of the revenue the athletic department generates. The programs also require the most resources to maintain.
But the football team by far has the biggest gap between revenue and expenses and receives the most support from the university.
In 2016, the football program received almost $2.6 million of the more than $6 million in revenue generated by student fees. And the program received $3.7 million of the $10 million unrestricted income the university provided the athletic department.
Unrestricted dollars include funds raised by concerts held by the university, donations and corporate sponsorships.
Besides sports, UTEP uses those dollars to support student events, programming, furniture, supplies, the UTEP Edge student success initiative and study abroad trips, Edens said.
“Ideally, we want as many fans in the stadium as possible paying a football ticket,” Edens said. “That puts less stress on other revenue streams. That means we have less stress fundraising the money from donors.”
UTEP is not the only Texas school that funnels student fees and other subsidies to support its athletic program.
According to a Texas Tribune analysis of the budgets of at Texas schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2016, what UTEP spends and makes on sports is comparable to other schools in Conference-USA.
The athletic departments at the University of Texas at San Antonio receive more than $12 million from student fees and $3 million from the university to subsidize the program. The University of North Texas receives almost $11 million from student fees and nearly $10 million from the university, according to the analysis.
Only the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have athletic departments that make money. Those schools are in so-called power conferences – the Big-12 and South Eastern Conference.
According to UTEP data, the athletic department paid $709,104 to support the basketball head coach position and $616,867 to support the football head coaching position.
When football head coach Sean Kugler retired, former coach Mike Price stepped in for two months. He made $40,000 for his two months of work, data provided by UTEP show.
The 2016 budget shows the athletic department paid almost $8 million for athletic student aid. That includes tuition, summer school and aid for student-athletes who are hurt or inactive.
The numbers show the athletic department spent about $1 million on fundraising, marketing and promotion efforts.
The football program spent $263,443 and the basketball program $182,080 on recruiting efforts. That includes transportation, lodging, meals for prospective athletes, visits, telephone calls and mail.
The athletic department also paid $5.7 million for coaching salaries, benefits and bonuses, as well as $3 million for travel.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Aaron Montes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105, or (915) 777-4154. Twitter: @aaronmontes91.