UGA Athletic Association approves $93M budget, including $1.25M for Sanford Stadium

ST. SIMONS ISLAND — Outgoing University of Georgia president Michael Adams is presiding over his last Athletic Association Board of Directors meeting this week.

Most of the business of the three-day meeting took place on Thursday morning at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort.

As usual, Georgia expects to end the fiscal year adding to its reserve funds, with more than $930,000 in revenue. Adams said the thing he is the most proud of in athletics during his time as president is the financial health of the department.

“We’ve got to stay in the black,” Adams, the board’s chairman since he became president in 1997, said afterwards. “We’re one of the few programs that’s done that for 15 years now regularly.”

Said athletic director Greg McGarity: “It’s not a rosy picture at every institution. We’re very fortunate.”

Revenues as of April 30 are up about $3.6 million over last year to $75.3 million overall. However, expenses also are up about $6 million to $68.1 million overall.

Football expenses increased from $11.9 million to $15.4 million. Coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and some assistants got significant raises.

McGarity said Georgia controls expenses as best as it can.

The board approved a fiscal year 2014 budget of $93.2 million and $2.18 million for facility improvements, including to Sanford Stadium.

But the budget is about middle of the pack in the Southeastern Conference, according to senior executive athletic director Frank Crumley.

“We’re doing well, we’re in the black,” Adams told the board’s executive committee. “The lines get a little closer together. And we’re charging in the middle of the pack or the lower middle of the pack, frankly, on ticket prices. Hopefully, our donors and others will continue to step up.”

Football season ticket prices haven’t gone up since 2008, but Hartman Fund football ticket contributions moved up some from $22.5 million a year ago to $23.3 million, a “tremendous response,” McGarity said.

“The only way we can generate additional revenue is through the SEC, is through our donors, but when you’re selling all your season tickets, we don’t have extra tickets to sell,” McGarity said. “Your revenue generating opportunities are strictly around football. Unless we increase ticket prices or amounts of donations for seat licenses, suite prices, things like that, you’re really kind of restricted on how you can generate more revenue.”

Talk of increasing ticket prices could be coming, McGarity said.

Incoming president Jere Morehead will take over for Adams after he retires on June 30.

“I think we want to make sure the athletic department spends its resources wisely and remains in the black,” said Morehead, currently UGA’s provost. “I don’t have any significant concerns about that issue given where we stand now. Fortunately we have significant reserves, we have a strong donor base, we have the SEC Network coming on in future years. I think the future for Georgia athletics is very bright.”

Those cash reserves are projected to be $65.3 million after $6.2 million goes to previously approved projects to Sanford Stadium, Foley Field and various scoreboard upgrades.

Georgia has benefited from a decision made last fall to begin moving $30 million to the UGA Foundation as an endowment. With the stock market thriving, that produced $450,000 in investment earnings by the end of March, according to treasurer Tim Burgess.

McGarity said while Georgia is “very healthy” financially, managing finances efficiently is always on the front burner.

Adams mentioned how Georgia only has six home football games in 2013.

“That’s an issue I think all of us are committed to remedying,” Adams told the board’s executive committee.

Football ticket revenue is projected to be $19.7 million the next fiscal year, down from a projected $21.8 million.

The SEC Network, which launches in August of 2014, will bring a “significant” financial benefit five years from now, Adams said.

Georgia, like other SEC schools, is trying to lure more fans to stadiums instead of staying home and watching games on their sofas.

“What can we do to drive people to our venues?” McGarity said of a question many other athletic directors are asking.

One way, he said, are things like making Wi-Fi available at game sites for fans with tablets and smart phones and improving concessions.

Keeping salaries from escalating is a way to keep finances healthy.

Adams said administrators need to use discipline with the purse strings when it comes to coaching hires.

“There’s always demands for more, more, more, but there’s a very rich talent pool out there now in sports,” Adams said.

Asked if he had a ceiling in terms of how much he’s willing to pay his new baseball coach after dismissing 12-year head coach David Perno, McGarity said: “We will hire a great coach. I’ll leave it at that.”

As Adams passes the baton to Morehead, he told the full board: “It’s going to take some discipline from this board moving forward and from the administration. There are some places that are running headlong toward the cliff. Assistant coaches salaries, incredible money being spent on revenue sports. It will, in my opinion, it will take some continued self-discipline for us to stay in the black.”

Other matters from Thursday:

– The facility improvements approved included $1.25 million for Sanford Stadium for new flooring, ceiling fans, televisions and graphics, to the Champions Club, where the highest paying contributors sit on the north side club level.  The board approved adding two LED panel to provide closed captioning.
Another $300,000 will go to a design study for football practice field improvements that will result in replacing the two FieldTurf fields and the concrete block wall near the field following the 2013 season.
“It’s a hazard on young men on down and out runs,” McGarity said.
The Stegeman Coliseum athletic training room will be upgraded and courts at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex will be resurfaced.

–Adams said he hasn’t taken a position on a possible nine-game football SEC schedule that is expected to be at least discussed next week in league meetings in Destin.
Georgia coach Mark Richt has been against a nine-game schedule in the past because the annual nonconference game against Georgia Tech makes for at least 10 games he considered “pretty stout.”
“I think that’s one that cuts both ways,” Adams said. “On one hand you give the fans a better experience in the regular season, but you may not give them as good an experience in bowl game time if we beat each other up more in the SEC during the year. I’m going to listen to the discussion in Destin. I’m probably going to be guided by the AD and what the next crowd wants to do since I’m not going to have to live it.”
McGarity said he wants to hear more about details that will go into the strength of schedule in the four-team playoff and if a nine-game schedule would hurt or help. McGarity expects the 2014 schedule to come out next week.
It’s an eight-game schedule with the same 6-1-1 format used this past season.

–McGarity said a neutral site game with Florida State in 2016 in Atlanta “is a long, long shot.”
The big reason, he said, is Georgia wants seven home games.
“While that game may make you whole from a budget standpoint. …we’re very sensitive to the community. Is that the best thing for our community? There’s no question it is not. I’ve kept an open mind.”
McGarity said he hasn’t discussed the game, floated by Gary Stokan of the Chick-fil-A kickoff game, with Richt.

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