December 23, 2009

A Self-Sustaining Athletics Program

A number of you have commented on Coach Mack Brown’s salary, especially in these difficult economic times. Feedback like this is one of the reasons for Tower Talk, so I hope you will continue.

First, what did we do on his salary?  In 2007, when many organizations were interested in our coach, I worked with the Board of Regents on a plan to bring his guaranteed compensation in line with other top coaches. To do this, we increased his compensation from $3 million in 2007 to $4 million in 2008 and to $5 million in 2009.  The most recent action was an agreement to continue the 2009 guaranteed salary into the future, along with already existing $100,000 annual raises.  All of this comes from athletics revenues.  None of it comes from state funding or tuition.

Why now? The 2007 agreement was coming to an end.  If we did nothing, Coach Brown’s compensation would revert back to the 2007 level and would no longer be competitive in the marketplace.  And while Mack and Sally are happy here and not going anywhere, major institutions and organizations continue heavily to court them. Mack is the best coach in the country, not just because of winning–more victories in his 12 years than any program in the country–but also because he represents UT with integrity, class, and compliance. 

But the main reason to take action now was a business decision. When Mack came to UT, our program was in disarray.  It had not yet recovered from an uneven transition from Coach Royal to a new era.  The stadium was not full. Athletics could not be sustained by athletics revenue alone, so it had to receive a subsidy from the academic budget.  In Mack’s 12 years, he has changed all of that, going from $21 million to $87.5 million in football revenue, more than a four-fold increase, and building by far the most successful program in the country. This allows athletics—men’s and women’s sports—to be totally self-funding and self-sufficient.  In an era of budget cuts in higher education across the country, I am one of very few presidents who does not also have to bail out athletics with subsidies and loans.

Athletics also contributes more than $12 million to the UT economy in the form of service payments, such as for parking, administrative services, and interest on fund balances.  In the last three years they have made direct payments of $6.6 million to support academic programs such as undergraduate curriculum reform.  With our success this year, more payments are on the way.  And athletics is a key way we connect donors to the University and our academic programs.  (Less than 10% of total gifts go to athletics today).

Coach Brown is a critical component in this business model, which has been very successful.  It is important from a purely business perspective that we protect this asset and ensure a smooth transition into the Muschamp era, whenever that takes place.  We simply cannot afford another experience like our break in continuity between Coach Royal and Coach Brown.  All of this is to protect our academic budget in these difficult economic times, not at its expense.  Just ask any other major university president if he or she would trade places with me or our athletics business model.

Again, thank you for your input.  Dialogue is what this blog is all about.






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27 Responses to “A Self-Sustaining Athletics Program”

  1. Truth E .Ness says:

    It’s been said that there are three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. When Bill Powers says that only 10% of gifts to the university go to Athletics, that is true and not true. 10% of gifts go to Athletics, but those 10% of gifts make up almost 35% of all MONEY given to UT. The plain fact is, UT has ceased to care about staff, and more importantly, about undergraduate education. Undergraduate education does not bring in Corporate Research money which is the main business of the The University. Raising money is #1 and education follows far behind.