UI wants more state, school funds to subsidize Big Sky drop

The University of Idaho on Monday asked the State Board of Education to approve a waiver to increase the institutional funds cap for athletics by $1 Million per year over the next four years, according to a State Board of Education document.

In other words, the athletic department would like the school to subsidize its drop to the FCS.

The University is projecting a deficit of $1,093,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, and is asking the SBOE to raise the cap of $949,500 for institutional support of athletics to $1,949,500.

“The UI has indicated that, contingent upon the Board’s approval of a waiver to the current Institutional Funds cap (which, for FY2017 would increase the current limit of $949,500 to $1,949,500), it will have sufficient Institutional Funds on hand to cover the current and projected future Athletic deficits,” UI’s proposal states in the document.

The school currently is projected to receive $5,188,700 in public support. The spread is $2,973,100 for general State funding, $1,266,100 for Gender Equity and $949,500 for Institutional Support.

A SBOE document from February of 2016 projected the athletic department receiving $1,485,400 in institutional funds in 2015 and $1,399,700 for the 2016 fiscal year. The document reported  $812,800 in institutional funds in 2014.

Among reasons the athletic department is asking for more handouts:

1. Guarantee game revenue is going down. Idaho received about $500K less for its guarantee games vs. Wazzu and UW than it did for playing Auburn and USC, accounting for half of the reported shortfall, the document said. Idaho only has one guarantee game in 2017, but has Indiana (x2), Florida and Penn State on the hook for FBS-level payouts while in the Big Sky. Big Sky schools make little more than half as much as FBS mid-major schools pull for guarantee games.

2. Student fee revenue isn’t going up. This is contingent entirely on enrollment, as Idaho’s hands are largely tied in terms of raising student fees (which they should be). The document estimates a $315,750 loss of student fee revenue compared to the previous year.

3. People aren’t donating. The document says donations are “slightly” down.

“Athletics Department personnel project that contributions to the Vandal Scholarship Fund (VSF) will be down $150,000 from prior fiscal year levels … In addition, non-VSF donations are projected to be down $200,000 from prior fiscal year levels.”

The SBOE document from 2016 states Idaho projected $3,173,170 in “contributions” in 2015 and $2,300,000 in 2016.

It’s possible this deficit could occur had the university not announced a drop to the Big Sky last April. Student fee revenues would still be down, and Idaho by choice scheduled Missouri as its only football guarantee game in 2017, desiring of a more favorable slate. That’s nearly $1.5 Million of guarantee game revenue lost the last two seasons by simple choice.

Although, future revenues are certainly in doubt even if donation sums were to rise back to previous levels.

Going back to guarantee games: Idaho is making $7.45 Million to play seven guarantee football games over the next six years, with a games at Washington State in 2020 and Oregon State in 2021 netting typical FCS payouts. Adjusting for the inflation of what schools like LSU were willing to pay an FBS Idaho, that’s a loss of about $2M of what seven guarantee games would net for Idaho.

Hilariously, today’s document fully admits the anger surrounding the FCS drop is the primary reason people are closing their checkbooks to the Vandals.

It then goes on to say the Big Sky will also result in a loss of conference and College Football Playoff revenue.

The document noted the Sun Belt Conference’s third-place standing in the Group of Five as a slight alleviation of the current deficit, as well as Famous Idaho Potato Bowl revenue.

These revenue streams are obviously disappearing after this upcoming football season.

Basically, Idaho wants to increase institutional support to keep revenue streams relatively similar to FBS levels so it can maintain the athletic program without cutting programs.

Idaho added sports such as soccer during the transition up to FBS in 1996 to satisfy Title IX regulations regarding spending on gender. The increase in football spending mandated an increase in spending in women’s athletics. The school will have the opportunity to cut women’s spending (read: get rid of) after the FCS drop. They’ve been adamant about not doing it.

Here’s what recent spending looks like per sport:


The long-term vision here is clear: Stabilize football spending. This will come when scholarship costs drop, coaching salary costs drop and travel costs drop. The savings will be very slow, but will gradually add up. Especially if the school sees success on the field, resulting in increased ticket sales and contributions.

But in order to do that without cutting sports, we’re going to need help. We said “please!”

Hilariously, and I truly mean hee-lair-eee-is-lee, the very next item on today’s agenda is asking the SBOE to approve Idaho’s design and planning phase on an arena project, which will require $20M in contributions to get built. It’s worth a look, though.


Uh, Go Vandals. Sigh.




3 responses to “UI wants more state, school funds to subsidize Big Sky drop”

  1. Bob Cowan Avatar
    Bob Cowan

    The look on Spear and Petrino’s faces says it all. We’re in deep s… and probably won’t be able to get out. Sayonara Chuck


  2. tom reynolds Avatar
    tom reynolds

    Always has a hand out !!!!


  3. Doug Avatar

    Good luck Chuck.


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