- UT's athletic department transfers to general university programs
- $1.375 million - academic scholarships for non-athletes
- $1.125 million - parking garage debt service
- $1.528 million - to cover arena budget deficit
- $97,000 - admissions office/enrollment services
- $240,000 - cover Gibbs Hall deficit
- $155,000 - annual maintenance and employee salary for use of UT plane
- Source: UT Athletic Department
University of Tennessee officials are discussing how the athletic departments could increase efficiency and possibly generate more funding for academics as the UT system grapples with a projected state funding shortfall of at least $66 million.
UT President John Petersen has asked athletic directors Mike Hamilton and Joan Cronan to form a team to examine efficiencies in their departments, while UT trustee Doug Horne says the athletic departments should streamline to give more funding to academics.
"We have to look at all matters during these troubled times so everyone can be more efficient," Horne said. "The athletic department is not exempt - it is part of the university."
As the UT system prepares for the budget shortfall, which represents a 13-percent drop in state funding, Petersen said in an interview with the News Sentinel editorial board last week that his request to the athletic directors "makes sense in looking at what the athletic department can do to help academic programs."
UT is one of the few universities where the athletic department supports itself and contributes to academics, UT officials said.
"The athletic department has a separate budget and supports itself, but it could become more efficient and streamlined so it could get more for the academic side," Horne said.
A new Southeastern Conference television contract that takes effect July 1 will mean the athletic department is "going to do more" for academics, Hamilton said. He said he could not comment on the amount of funding, but he said he has begun conversations with campus leaders to determine "where and how we might have some further impact on campus through some of these dollars. …
"We are committed firmly to finding a way to provide some of that new resource toward campus initiatives," he said. "I don't think that's our place to say where that goes - I think that's the president's and chancellor's place to say where it goes."
In fiscal 2008, the UT athletic department generated a net surplus of about $5.04 million before making transfers of $4.54 million to support the UT system and Knoxville campus programs. Its operating budget is $87.8 million. Surplus funds go into what is "essentially a rainy-day fund" for the department, spokeswoman Tiffany Carpenter said.
UT says its athletics operation is among fewer than 10 departments in the country that receive no funds from state subsidies or taxes.
"I don't think there's an athletic program in this league that has done as much for the university yet gotten less credit for it - I really firmly believe that," Hamilton said. "We have historically been very much involved in being an integral part of campus life and also being a partner in relation to the financial side of the equation - much more so, in my opinion, than others in the Southeastern Conference."
Hamilton said the athletic department spends $1.375 million per year on academic scholarships for 2,400 non-athletes. In the fall, the athletic department asked staff to cut $2.5 million from the budget, "which we've done," Hamilton said.
Additionally, Hamilton said the department will give net proceeds from the spring football game to campus. He said tickets have been free for the last three years. "If fans respond to (new coach) Lane Kiffin's first spring game, I think we'll be able to give a nice-sized check (to campus)," he said.
UT-Knoxville Faculty Senate President John Nolt, who sees Neyland Stadium's Jumbotron on during the day and calls it a "visible reminder" of "unnecessary" athletic department spending, said he favors the separation of athletic and academic budgets.
But, he said, "they're very wealthy over there. I certainly would appreciate any help athletics can give us."
Horne, chairman of the Committee on Effectiveness and Efficiency for the Future, said suggestions from the UT community include eliminating "a sport or two."
"Since the athletic department is a separate part of the university's budget, the elimination of sports becomes difficult," Hamilton said.
UT-Knoxville has 20 sports. In order to be a member of Division I-A, Hamilton said a university must have at least six team sports and, as a general rule, the league tries to have two more women's sports than men's. Removal of certain sports, such as rowing and volleyball, has Title IX implications, he said.
"The elimination of sports has significant political ramifications and historical ramifications as it relates to our tradition, so we'd be changing our competitive model as it relates to our peers in the Southeastern Conference," he said.
Another efficiency suggestion was to consolidate men's and women's athletics. Hamilton manages men's sports programs and Cronan manages women's sports programs.
"While there are a few support functions that might be perceived from the outside as duplicative in nature, we have a lot of our support functions that are already consolidated," Hamilton said. "I think we have an obligation to always continue to look for those places where that makes sense, and that's what we'll be doing during this time that Dr. Petersen has suggested."
Chloe White may be reached at 865-342-6341.