SIU athletics running on cumulative deficit over $26 million


Ryan Michalesko

Football fans fill the stands during the Salukis’ 50-17 win over the Murray State Racers on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, at Saluki Stadium.

By Brian Munoz, Photography and Multimedia Editor

SIU athletics is running a cumulative deficit of more than $26 million, according to documents obtained by the Daily Egyptian under a Freedom of Information Act request and interviews.

The cumulative operational or “day-to-day” deficit rose from $4.7 million in 2013 to $19.6 million by June 2017.

During the 2013 fiscal year, a loan from the university system to SIU athletics added $8.6 million to the athletics deficit, Judith Marshall, SIUC executive director of administration and finance, said.

The loan was to help pay off renovations for SIU Arena, Saluki Stadium and Itchy Jones Stadium, Marshall said.

She said bond sales did not cover the full cost of the new stadium and the renovations to the arena and Itchy Jones Stadium.

“The president’s office agreed to loan the money internally that they are paying back,” Marshall said. “They do pay interest – determined by the president’s office.”

The financial documents, which outline revenue and expenditures in athletics, show football as the most expensive intercollegiate athletic team at the university.

The football program lost roughly $2.6 million during the 2017 fiscal year and lost roughly $9.4 million during the four-year snapshot the Daily Egyptian analyzed.

During the 2017 fiscal year, men’s basketball lost the university $966,183, women’s basketball lost the university $998,998 and all other intercollegiate athletics combined added nearly $4.8 million to the athletics deficit.

Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said in a statement sent to the Daily Egyptian that he has been looking into the financial situation in athletics since arriving at SIU. The same statement appeared Tuesday afternoon in his blog

“Since arriving in August, I have been closely looking at the very challenging and complex financial situation facing Saluki athletics,” Montemagno said. “The deficit has greatly increased over the last five years and answers to stemming the tide are difficult to find.”

The university’s expenditures and revenues are similar to other Missouri Valley Conference schools, according to Mark Scally, deputy director of finance at SIU Athletics.

Southern Illinois University spent the most on athletics in the Missouri Valley Conference during the 2016 fiscal year at $27.5 million, according to USA TODAY.

Missouri State spent $26.2 million, Wichita State $25.96 million, Illinois State $25.93 million, Northern Iowa nearly $18.5 million and Indiana State $14.7 million, according to the USA Today database.

SIU also had the highest loss in the MVC, according to the database.

During the 2016 fiscal year SIU athletics lost $4.3 million. The second highest loss was the University of Northern Iowa at $765,000.

“If we were in a big city like Wichita or Chicago we may be selling more tickets,” Scally said. “Being in a small, rural, community like this I think we do pretty well at most of the things we do.”

The deficit that athletics faces is due to the decreased enrollment on campus, Scally said.

“Our business model at athletics is strongly reliant on the student fee – it composes about half of our revenue,” Scally said. “When we have large shifts in enrollment, that’s problematic.”

Marshall agreed.

“[Athletics] has been impacted by the decrease in enrollment because they are heavily reliant on the student fee,” Marshall said. “They also rely upon ticket sales and if you go to basketball or football, attendance is down.”

The student fee of $315 per semester per full time student given to athletics totaled $8.1 million in 2017, down from $8.5 million in 2014, according to the financial documents.

The current funding model in university athletics is unsustainable, Montemagno said.

“The university must take an in-depth review of Saluki athletics to create a plan that will first lead to realizing a balanced budget on an annual basis and then address the significant long-term deficit position while maintaining our position as a competitive NCAA Division I program,” Montemagno said.

A contributing factor to the financial woes of the university is the reduction in state appropriations and athletics was not immune to those reductions, Marshall said.

Athletics received $1.7 million from the university’s state appropriations in 2015 but that has been reduced to $1.1 million for fiscal year ‘18, Marshall said.

Scally said the solution to athletics’ deficit is increasing enrollment instead of eliminating programs. “There is a limit to how much you can cut in the athletic department and on campus,” he said.

Athletics attempted to cut spending by reducing swimming scholarships and cutting the men’s and women’s tennis programs in early 2017 to save the department an estimated $660,000.

SIU will add a women’s soccer team after the university was found to be in violation of federal Title IX.

That will cost between $650,000 and $700,000, according to an internal memo sent by SIU President Randy Dunn that was obtained by the Daily Egyptian.

But a press release sent by athletics Jan. 16 said the operating budget for soccer would be less than $400,000.

Scally said finances are not a factor in adding the women’s soccer team.

“Bringing back tennis [would] not add enough female student athletes to our headcount,” he said. “Soccer will bring 20 to 30 [female] student athletes where a tennis roster maxes out about nine or 10.”

Athletics has tried to find new revenue sources.

“One of the things we added this year was the sale of beer and wine at athletic events, hoping that we could generate some new revenue and try to close the gap that way,” Scally said.

Despite being one of the largest contributors to the current deficit, the football program has not seen substantial cuts to its program due to the deficit, according to the reports obtained by the Daily Egyptian. “Very few football programs at our level make money,” Scally said. “I think you’ll find that most of them don’t.”

The football program has used multiple money-saving tactics, he said.

“Next year we will play at the University of Mississippi,” Scally said. “Some teams would fly but we’re going to bus down there.”

Oxford, Mississippi, home to the university, is almost 300 miles from Carbondale.

SIU will receive roughly $400,000 to play in Mississippi, Scally said. “So football does create some value and some revenue … there are a lot of positives that go with it.”

Cutting scholarships in the football team would lessen SIU’s ability to compete in the Missouri Valley Conference.

“When you’re competing against North Dakota State with their full 63 scholarships and we don’t give out as many, we’re not going to be able to compete,” Scally said.

Cutting football scholarships would also contribute to the decline in enrollment at the university, Scally said.

“We have 63 scholarships in football that covers about 80 to 85 students, but they all go to class here,” Scally said. “When you start eliminating some of those students from the campus, our enrollment troubles campus-wide go down.”

Photography and multimedia editor Brian Muñoz can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BrianMMunoz.

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