How To Balance UH Sports Budget

Bobby Curran
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Friday - March 03, 2010
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When newspaper headlines proclaim a $10 million accumulated deficit for the University of Hawaii athletic department, a casual observer might think college athletics are in real trouble here. But scratch the surface and you’ll see a situation where so many hands are in the athletic department cookie jar there’s little chance to be profitable. Jesus said, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and the advice, were it followed, would have UH athletics in the black practically overnight.

First, UH is the only school in the WAC that does not have a student activities fee. If UH were to impose one of $75 per semester, it would generate $3 million - and UH athletics would be in the black immediately, as the operating deficit runs a little over $2 million per year.

Second, UH athletics receives none of the parking revenues for athletic events, and only a fraction of the merchandising revenue.


Also, Stan Sheriff Center is prohibited from renting the facility by virtue of a City and County restriction on competing with Neal Blaisdell Center. Might have made sense 15 years ago, but now?

And then there’s the situation at Aloha Stadium, where an outside entity has the rights to sell scoreboard messages and P.A. announcements during UH football games. And UH gets none of the parking or concession income there either. Again, back when Aloha Stadium was built, it seemed like there would be plenty of money for everybody, but the situation has changed drastically.

Isn’t it time to let UH keep the revenues it generates? Or at the very least, credit it with the revenues so when any accounting is done, it will show that the UH athletic department is actually profitable. Seems only fair.

The recent financial report showed that UH athletics generates 81 percent of its operating budget. That compares to the WAC average of 50 percent. Mountain West Conference schools generate an average of 54 percent of their budgets. By those standards, UH is actually doing a very good job. Granted, there is room for improvement, but overall it would be hard to pillory the athletic department based on the facts.

This becomes extremely important as conferences look to add new members, because being in good financial shape would be critical to another conference finding a school attractive.

In a recent article which discussed possible additions to the Pac-10, it mentioned Hawaii and said it would-n’t be seriously considered because, in addition to other reasons, it was a “financial mess.” The solution seems obvious: Impose a student activities fee and allow UH athletics to keep the revenues it generates. If you do that, UH athletics will be profitable, and instead of having to go hat in hand to upper campus for funds, it will be in a position to give money to other university departments.

Change in the business model is necessary, and the sooner the better.

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