Jul 04, 2020

Athletics doesn’t make money

Special to the Collegian by John Waayers, a Retired University Budget Officer

Mr. Jesse Franz,

I read your editorial in The Fresno Bee. I agree with you on the fundamental issue that students should come first. However, I disagree that athletics is about making “profit.” Having served as budget officer at two CSU campuses, including Fresno State, I can tell you no campus athletic program makes a profit. In fact, most athletic programs struggle to cover costs.

The approximate $23 million (don’t know the exact figure any more) Fresno State athletic budget comes from four sources – 1) Revenue (ticket sales) from sports (primarily football); 2) donations from the community; 3) campus state general funds; 4) Instructional Related Activities (IRA) funds (from student fees). Revenue and donations make up the majority of the budget sources of funds. No “profit” flows back to the university. In fact, in past years, when football revenue did not make the budget projection, the university or Bulldog Foundation had to augment the athletic budget to make ends meet.

Basically, football revenue covers the cost of all the non-revenue-generating sports. In addition, I think you would find that most Fresno State boosters donate funds to athletics because they like football. So, in a sense, football is the cash cow that keeps athletics running. If we don’t win, revenue goes down. If we win, attendance goes up, and there is more money for all sports.

Unfortunately, the football landscape changed dramatically this year when the BCS conferences voted to increase scholarships for football players and offer them meals and what I call pay-for-play. Fresno State, which has been chasing the big conferences for years, will be unable to keep up financially. Ultimately, we will not be able to compete for scholarship athletes. We will either have to bring in more donation funding (thus the need for the new athletic director) or scale back athletics in the long run. It is sink or swim.

To maintain NCAA division 1 status, we have to offer a minimum of 16 sports, 8 men’s and 8 women’s. If football does not succeed in the new environment, the university may have to reduce sports offerings. Some universities like University of Alabama at Birmingham (just announced) and Long Beach State (several years ago) have dropped football and made basketball their marque sport. Football is too ingrained in the Fresno community for that to happen. So it’s raise more money or else.

So it’s not about profit. It’s about survival.

This letter is in reference to the article “It’s about the players, not the profits” that ran in The Collegian on Nov. 24 and in The Fresno Bee on Dec. 1.

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