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Why does the CU Athletic Department always struggle financially? What can be done?

Buffnik

Real name isn't Nik
Club Member
Junta Member
To tee this up, I want to be sure to frame expectations. I'm not comparing CU to private institutions with the resources available to them (Stanford, USC, etc.) or to schools that either have a "Sugar Daddy" (Oregon, Oklahoma State) or a list of "Billionaire Boosters" (Texas, Texas A&M). I'm not wondering why we're not elite on funding, I'm wondering why we're the poorest kid on the block among P5 peers.

Beyond all the money spent to pay and fire coaches that competitors seem to throw around much more readily, there are a number of things that have drawn my attention and been frustrating to witness:

1. CU being the only member of the Pac-12 that doesn't have a baseball or softball team. It's the national pastime sport & CU is a state flagship. Not a Title IX issue - baseball offers 11.7 scholarships while softball offers 12, so having these sports would actually bring the CU ADep closer to the desired 50/50 scholarship balance. This is purely a financial issue.

2. Back in 2006, CU announced it was cutting Men's Tennis and also downsized the ADep over financial difficulties. All that because about $7M in budget shortfalls accumulated over the previous 5 years. https://cubuffs.com/news/2006/3/23/250429

3. The decisions on coaches where CU has held onto people it knew it was time to part from. Ricardo Patton's lame duck year. The final year of Dan Hawkins. Certain assistants who were on multi-year contracts and forced onto a head coach. All of this is financially motivated (dictated, really).

4. Football facilities. I don't remember the exact dates, but I moved to Boulder in 1998 so all of this would have been since then. Major projects before the IPF/Champions Center which had been a "need project" on the board since Tharp was AD: permanent lights finally added, modern scoreboard finally added. We still have an antiquated sound system, antiquated bathrooms, lack of amenities, a lack of chair back seating options, horrible "premium" seating on the west side, and a whole lot of neglect and dilapidation from Balch to rusty signage around the stadium.

5. Court sport facilities. It was shocking when I first learned that CU, as a major university, did not have practice courts. So MBB, WBB and VB all had to coordinate their practice schedules on the game court around the games of the other teams and also exam & event schedules at the Keg. When the groundbreaking ceremony was announced in 2010 on the Basketball/Volleyball Practice Facility, it was done by Bohn to force the project which had been written into Coach Bzdelik's contract. CU ADep did not have the $10.8M it needed raised yet when they started it. https://pac-12.com/article/2010/03/24/groundbreaking-set-coors-events-center-practice-facility

6. This year, the Pac-12 put together a massive loan program to help its members meet budget shortfalls due to Covid. There was only 1 school that took the loan. CU now owes the Pac-12 $18M. https://www.yahoo.com/now/pac-12-1-billion-loan-201117564.html

I could go on, but I trust the above is enough to drive home the point.

What I'm hoping to accomplish with this thread is to ask some questions and hopefully get some answers. It's embarrassing and shameful that CU is apparently way behind conference members like WSU and OSU, among others, on financial resources and management.

Why is CU so poor?

What types of things can be done to fix this?
 

Buffnik

Real name isn't Nik
Club Member
Junta Member
Conference affiliation.
That explains why CU didn't have things other Big 12 ADeps had? Why we don't have the sports or facilities of other Pac-12 members & are the only member that needed a loan?
 

SINKRATZ

PhD in Analogy
Club Member
I know this problem began long before CU moved to the Pac12, but I can’t help but feel that while we probably are closer to a larger percentage of our alumni base, we might be further from the portion of the alumni base that actually contributes to athletics.

I also believe that dwindling public funding for CU has caused the university to rely more heavily on out of state students. These students didn’t grow up rooting for CU and many move back to where they came from after school. The result is a pretty apathetic local fan base - we don’t have the rabid support from people around the state the way schools in the south and other parts of the Midwest do.

Lack of financial support from the University is a problem - the fact that the AD had to take a loan from the conference rather than it’s own University tells us a lot. And I think there’s plenty of old farts in the administration and on the BoR who see football as a nice to have and not all that important in the grand scheme of University life other than to give students and alumni something fun to do 7 saturdays every year.
 

atlbuff

Club Member
Club Member
I know this problem began long before CU moved to the Pac12, but I can’t help but feel that while we probably are closer to a larger percentage of our alumni base, we might be further from the portion of the alumni base that actually contributes to athletics.

I also believe that dwindling public funding for CU has caused the university to rely more heavily on out of state students. These students didn’t grow up rooting for CU and many move back to where they came from after school. The result is a pretty apathetic local fan base - we don’t have the rabid support from people around the state the way schools in the south and other parts of the Midwest do.

Lack of financial support from the University is a problem - the fact that the AD had to take a loan from the conference rather than it’s own University tells us a lot. And I think there’s plenty of old farts in the administration and on the BoR who see football as a nice to have and not all that important in the grand scheme of University life other than to give students and alumni something fun to do 7 saturdays every year.
I think that more alumni (like myself) would donate but we have seen about 15-20 years of mediocrity. I was excited and donated more than before when the transition occurred and went to more games than ever and bought needed merchandise as well. As time went on, it became clear the university was not serious so why should I be? I am pretty certain that if they put out a quality product and showed commitment many more people such as myself on the west coast would donate. I might be wrong, but I have to believe there is a larger quantity of alums out here in general but are smart enough to not throw good money after a poorly run program.
 

Buffnik

Real name isn't Nik
Club Member
Junta Member
and Boulder is expensive
That's a challenge & opportunity thing. Where things are expensive, there is also more money. Many successful businesses and people are in Boulder. It's popular for bootstrapping startups despite the costs due to the entrepreneurial network of talent & overall resources.
 

MiamiBuffs

YYZ
Club Member
I also believe that dwindling public funding for CU has caused the university to rely more heavily on out of state students. These students didn’t grow up rooting for CU and many move back to where they came from after school. The result is a pretty apathetic local fan base - we don’t have the rabid support from people around the state the way schools in the south and other parts of the Midwest do.
When most of those kids came here from CA only to party followed by a post collegiate life as a salesmen, you have few if any entrepreneurs that have the started something meaningful and thus have the scratch to give big later in life.

My daughter is looking to skip CU because of its party school reputation.
 
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MtnBuff

Not allowed in Barzil 2
Club Member
The heavy dependence on out of state students (paying full price) and the selling of the university as a place where students come and "experience" Colorado then leave has a price in terms of the degree and form of loyalty alumni have to the school.

It also seems as if the university does a poor job of connecting to alums (and others who would support the school) and developing them as financial supporters of the athletic program (and the school as a whole.)

In the case of a lot of our peer institutions the schools have managed to develop a sense of pride and identity in the state that identifies the university as a key part of who they are. This contributes to states that have substantially smaller populations and economies doing a better job of supporting their state university, and in some cases universities.

Lastly and this is related to the above I think CU has a huge identity crisis. They don't want to be seen as a school with athletics as it's face. They can't decide if they want to be the University of Chicago or a pretend Ivy League school or a Cal, in all cases a school where winning at athletics, at least revenue athletics, is seen as unnecessary.

They don't mind collecting the money it generates but they don't want to soil their hands with such mundane elements as sport.
 

skibum

Did not pee on the Alamo.
Club Member
I really think a lot of the problem is at the state government level.

There are some well intended state policies that hurt the school (e.g. disallowing some duplicate programs at state schools has weird secondary effects), but most of the problems stem from a lack of budget support from the state.

The causes of that lack of support range from political (republicans cutting government) to structural (bat **** crazy republicans getting tabor passed decades ago) and even democrats passing the constitutional amendment requiring k-12 to be funded at certain levels without also repealing tabor (the increased money to k-12 mostly came from universities).

Now the school budget has very little reliance on the state budget allocation (isn't it a single digit percentage?).

That's not a good thing. It means the school is funding itself like a private university (tuition, research grants, donations, licensing, etc), but is fenced in by both state law & regulations while also trying to carry on the mission of a state public university.

The school has "fixed" its state funding budget problem by relying on out of state students, pursuing research grants like a mofo, and yes, minimizing the "cost" of the AD. There are reportedly a lot of things that go under the umbrella "managerial accounting" for which the CU AD "pays" more to the school than its peer ADs.

All of those things add up.

But the bottom line is that the state of Colorado underfunds its public universities - I mean when Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico (New Mexico!) spend 25-50% more per student than us...
 

skibum

Did not pee on the Alamo.
Club Member
It's got to be mismanagement. Looking at some of the AD revenues for Pac-12 schools, we're right in the middle. So it's not like we don't have any revenue coming in, but what happens to it once it gets there.
See "managerial accounting" point above.

How an organization allocates costs across its various divisions isn't a cut and dried question. There are lots of ways to do it, and none are really "right" (although some actually are wrong).

For an example: take something like HR costs. The university has an HR department that serves the whole campus. Where and how do you allocate the costs for that department?

In a well funded by the legislature state institution, they may just pay for the entire department out of the "administration budget" in its own little category. Whereas a cash strapped school is going to allocate the HR costs across the various departments (or, at a minimum, make sure the school isn't "subsidizing" the AD by providing those services for "free").

You better believe that the CU AD is getting some of those costs allocated to it, whereas other schools may not bother.

How those costs are allocated can be changed too. You could allocate them by number of employees, but you could also allocate them by total payroll dollars. Independent auditors will have zero problems signing off on either method - they're both "right." When you've got the two highest paid university employees in one department, which way do you think results in more costs being allocated to that department?

Which way do you think CU does it?

This concept can be repeated across any shared resource: buildings and grounds maintenance, IT services, utility costs, parking, food services, general admin, etc, etc.

I'd bet a reasonable chunk of change that the CU AD gets hit with meaningful higher charges on all of these sorts of things than does its peer institutions.

You could call those things "hidden subsidies" at other schools, and you may actually be right. It could also be that the CU AD is very modestly subsidizing the school in ways that other ADs are not.

At the end of the day, I don't think the AD is "wasting" the money in any egregious way. Frankly, the numbers are too big for that to be likely. There's just a different institutional cost structure, and it systematically disadvantages the CU AD in comparison to its peers.
 

CUAviator

Well-Known Member
To tee this up, I want to be sure to frame expectations. I'm not comparing CU to private institutions with the resources available to them (Stanford, USC, etc.) or to schools that either have a "Sugar Daddy" (Oregon, Oklahoma State) or a list of "Billionaire Boosters" (Texas, Texas A&M). I'm not wondering why we're not elite on funding, I'm wondering why we're the poorest kid on the block among P5 peers.

Beyond all the money spent to pay and fire coaches that competitors seem to throw around much more readily, there are a number of things that have drawn my attention and been frustrating to witness:

1. CU being the only member of the Pac-12 that doesn't have a baseball or softball team. It's the national pastime sport & CU is a state flagship. Not a Title IX issue - baseball offers 11.7 scholarships while softball offers 12, so having these sports would actually bring the CU ADep closer to the desired 50/50 scholarship balance. This is purely a financial issue.

2. Back in 2006, CU announced it was cutting Men's Tennis and also downsized the ADep over financial difficulties. All that because about $7M in budget shortfalls accumulated over the previous 5 years. https://cubuffs.com/news/2006/3/23/250429

3. The decisions on coaches where CU has held onto people it knew it was time to part from. Ricardo Patton's lame duck year. The final year of Dan Hawkins. Certain assistants who were on multi-year contracts and forced onto a head coach. All of this is financially motivated (dictated, really).

4. Football facilities. I don't remember the exact dates, but I moved to Boulder in 1998 so all of this would have been since then. Major projects before the IPF/Champions Center which had been a "need project" on the board since Tharp was AD: permanent lights finally added, modern scoreboard finally added. We still have an antiquated sound system, antiquated bathrooms, lack of amenities, a lack of chair back seating options, horrible "premium" seating on the west side, and a whole lot of neglect and dilapidation from Balch to rusty signage around the stadium.

5. Court sport facilities. It was shocking when I first learned that CU, as a major university, did not have practice courts. So MBB, WBB and VB all had to coordinate their practice schedules on the game court around the games of the other teams and also exam & event schedules at the Keg. When the groundbreaking ceremony was announced in 2010 on the Basketball/Volleyball Practice Facility, it was done by Bohn to force the project which had been written into Coach Bzdelik's contract. CU ADep did not have the $10.8M it needed raised yet when they started it. https://pac-12.com/article/2010/03/24/groundbreaking-set-coors-events-center-practice-facility

6. This year, the Pac-12 put together a massive loan program to help its members meet budget shortfalls due to Covid. There was only 1 school that took the loan. CU now owes the Pac-12 $18M. https://www.yahoo.com/now/pac-12-1-billion-loan-201117564.html

I could go on, but I trust the above is enough to drive home the point.

What I'm hoping to accomplish with this thread is to ask some questions and hopefully get some answers. It's embarrassing and shameful that CU is apparently way behind conference members like WSU and OSU, among others, on financial resources and management.

Why is CU so poor?

What types of things can be done to fix this?
^^ This. This is why, when my daughter says “I feel like I should go to CU. It would be cute and fun”, my response is “No! ****ing, no!”
 

CUAviator

Well-Known Member
To tee this up, I want to be sure to frame expectations. I'm not comparing CU to private institutions with the resources available to them (Stanford, USC, etc.) or to schools that either have a "Sugar Daddy" (Oregon, Oklahoma State) or a list of "Billionaire Boosters" (Texas, Texas A&M). I'm not wondering why we're not elite on funding, I'm wondering why we're the poorest kid on the block among P5 peers.

Beyond all the money spent to pay and fire coaches that competitors seem to throw around much more readily, there are a number of things that have drawn my attention and been frustrating to witness:

1. CU being the only member of the Pac-12 that doesn't have a baseball or softball team. It's the national pastime sport & CU is a state flagship. Not a Title IX issue - baseball offers 11.7 scholarships while softball offers 12, so having these sports would actually bring the CU ADep closer to the desired 50/50 scholarship balance. This is purely a financial issue.

2. Back in 2006, CU announced it was cutting Men's Tennis and also downsized the ADep over financial difficulties. All that because about $7M in budget shortfalls accumulated over the previous 5 years. https://cubuffs.com/news/2006/3/23/250429

3. The decisions on coaches where CU has held onto people it knew it was time to part from. Ricardo Patton's lame duck year. The final year of Dan Hawkins. Certain assistants who were on multi-year contracts and forced onto a head coach. All of this is financially motivated (dictated, really).

4. Football facilities. I don't remember the exact dates, but I moved to Boulder in 1998 so all of this would have been since then. Major projects before the IPF/Champions Center which had been a "need project" on the board since Tharp was AD: permanent lights finally added, modern scoreboard finally added. We still have an antiquated sound system, antiquated bathrooms, lack of amenities, a lack of chair back seating options, horrible "premium" seating on the west side, and a whole lot of neglect and dilapidation from Balch to rusty signage around the stadium.

5. Court sport facilities. It was shocking when I first learned that CU, as a major university, did not have practice courts. So MBB, WBB and VB all had to coordinate their practice schedules on the game court around the games of the other teams and also exam & event schedules at the Keg. When the groundbreaking ceremony was announced in 2010 on the Basketball/Volleyball Practice Facility, it was done by Bohn to force the project which had been written into Coach Bzdelik's contract. CU ADep did not have the $10.8M it needed raised yet when they started it. https://pac-12.com/article/2010/03/24/groundbreaking-set-coors-events-center-practice-facility

6. This year, the Pac-12 put together a massive loan program to help its members meet budget shortfalls due to Covid. There was only 1 school that took the loan. CU now owes the Pac-12 $18M. https://www.yahoo.com/now/pac-12-1-billion-loan-201117564.html

I could go on, but I trust the above is enough to drive home the point.

What I'm hoping to accomplish with this thread is to ask some questions and hopefully get some answers. It's embarrassing and shameful that CU is apparently way behind conference members like WSU and OSU, among others, on financial resources and management.

Why is CU so poor?

What types of things can be done to fix this?
And how do the Florida schools and UDub have so much money when there is no state income tax. This boggles my mind.
 

cu3x

Club Member
Club Member
Although he provides little specifics, George hopes to make the AD independent of CU funding, within a few years. That seems very, very unlikely.

He also makes it clear KD has security here.

 

PAHIBuff

Putin's Dildo
The heavy dependence on out of state students (paying full price) and the selling of the university as a place where students come and "experience" Colorado then leave has a price in terms of the degree and form of loyalty alumni have to the school.

It also seems as if the university does a poor job of connecting to alums (and others who would support the school) and developing them as financial supporters of the athletic program (and the school as a whole.)

In the case of a lot of our peer institutions the schools have managed to develop a sense of pride and identity in the state that identifies the university as a key part of who they are. This contributes to states that have substantially smaller populations and economies doing a better job of supporting their state university, and in some cases universities.

Lastly and this is related to the above I think CU has a huge identity crisis. They don't want to be seen as a school with athletics as it's face. They can't decide if they want to be the University of Chicago or a pretend Ivy League school or a Cal, in all cases a school where winning at athletics, at least revenue athletics, is seen as unnecessary.

They don't mind collecting the money it generates but they don't want to soil their hands with such mundane elements as sport.
 

PAHIBuff

Putin's Dildo
Most people in Colorado don't identify with CU. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. And now with the mass influx of out-of-state newcomers it's more pronounced. CU would be a complete asterisk if CSU was more academically noteworthy, or if DU was bigger and not so insular/odd.

University education in the state presents the aspiring local student with some interesting choices.

BTW, if anyone is interested in getting rid of TABOR, just put a repeal measure on the ballot and put it up for a vote. It's likely to get more votes now than would have in the past. Enough votes? I'm not sure of that; it would be an interesting experiment though.
 

goalline

Still trying to miss the ground
Club Member
When most of those kids came here from CA only to party followed by a post collegiate life as a salesmen, you have few if any entrepreneurs that have the started something meaningful and thus have the scratch to give big later in life.

My daughter is looking to skip CU because of its party school reputation.
Isn’t she looking at engineering? That school does not carry that rep. Those that come mostly to party, don’t leave with engineering degrees.
 
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CU IT guy

Well-Known Member
It's administration. Bad presidents, poor support from the Regents, couple of mail it in head in the sand ADs and a few bad football hires and here we are. All those mistakes add up to a boat load of money being wasted on stupid projects and paying bad hires to not work.

Joining the PAC12 didn't help things, but could have been an opportunity, like it was for Utah. The utes and the buffs were more or less in the same shape when they both came into the PAC12.

Compare what Utah did over the same time frame and you'll have literally ALL the answers. This next weeks 'finale' (likely more comparable to a root canal) game will say it all, I'm afraid.
 

GoBuffs08

Well-Known Member
You mentioned the lack of huge donors, and I think that is the biggest issue in the non-revenue sports. We don't have donors fully funding programs so those programs are pulling funds from the athletic department budgets. Football has always been the funding source for many of the other programs. Football has been so bad for so long I have to think there has been a huge decline in overall donation dollars, while costs keep going up.
 

tsarbomba

One Damn Dirty Ape
Club Member
I don’t see that blaming the AD’s financial issues on TABOR makes any sense. Financially, the AD is a self-supporting enterprise within the university. If the AD budget was a line-item in the state budget or a CU budget request to the legislature, I don’t see any way that the General Assembly would ever give taxpayer dollars to the AD. Millions of taxpayer dollars for a head coach? The angry speeches on the floor of the state house would write themselves, and I (a diehard CU fan) would agree with every word of it. The AD needs to pay for itself through media revenue, ticket sales, donations, and ancillary revenue like product licensing. TABOR, or a lack of state funding for higher education, has nothing to do with it. Instead of adding baseball, I’d personally be happy for CU to rid itself of every non-revenue generating varsity sport that it can while staying within Title IX, but that’s not going to happen, just like baseball is not going to happen.

I often see comments on AllBuffs to the effect that CU‘s administrators just don’t care enough about success in athletics to give it the financial resources it needs to thrive. Again, the AD should pay for itself, and if it can’t, well, it can’t. And do we really want to spend the insane amounts of money that the coaching arms race is currently seeing? Like 80 million over 10 years for Franklin at Penn State, or 90 million for Tucker? Even if It was the only way to have success, I would rather CU stay out of that arms race. Heck, I think that the money CU pays to HCKD is insane, not just for him in particular, but for any coach in general, anywhere. I’d personally rather see CU relegated to some second-tier status than try to keep up with that. Football is great. Athletics are important. But not that kind of money great and important.
 

skibum

Did not pee on the Alamo.
Club Member
I don’t see that blaming the AD’s financial issues on TABOR makes any sense. Financially, the AD is a self-supporting enterprise within the university. If the AD budget was a line-item in the state budget or a CU budget request to the legislature, I don’t see any way that the General Assembly would ever give taxpayer dollars to the AD. Millions of taxpayer dollars for a head coach? The angry speeches on the floor of the state house would write themselves, and I (a diehard CU fan) would agree with every word of it. The AD needs to pay for itself through media revenue, ticket sales, donations, and ancillary revenue like product licensing. TABOR, or a lack of state funding for higher education, has nothing to do with it. Instead of adding baseball, I’d personally be happy for CU to rid itself of every non-revenue generating varsity sport that it can while staying within Title IX, but that’s not going to happen, just like baseball is not going to happen.

I often see comments on AllBuffs to the effect that CU‘s administrators just don’t care enough about success in athletics to give it the financial resources it needs to thrive. Again, the AD should pay for itself, and if it can’t, well, it can’t. And do we really want to spend the insane amounts of money that the coaching arms race is currently seeing? Like 80 million over 10 years for Franklin at Penn State, or 90 million for Tucker? Even if It was the only way to have success, I would rather CU stay out of that arms race. Heck, I think that the money CU pays to HCKD is insane, not just for him in particular, but for any coach in general, anywhere. I’d personally rather see CU relegated to some second-tier status than try to keep up with that. Football is great. Athletics are important. But not that kind of money great and important.
Hint: it's not direct support, and support for the university through the state budget does have an effect on the AD's budget whether you understand it or not.

A lack of top line revenue is nearly always felt throughout an organization. What most people think of as "accounting" /= managerial accounting, and that's what we're talking about here.
 

The Alabaster Yak

Club Member
Club Member
It's administration. Bad presidents, poor support from the Regents, couple of mail it in head in the sand ADs and a few bad football hires and here we are. All those mistakes add up to a boat load of money being wasted on stupid projects and paying bad hires to not work.

Joining the PAC12 didn't help things, but could have been an opportunity, like it was for Utah. The utes and the buffs were more or less in the same shape when they both came into the PAC12.

Compare what Utah did over the same time frame and you'll have literally ALL the answers. This next weeks 'finale' (likely more comparable to a root canal) game will say it all, I'm afraid.
Utah was a premier G5 program coming off three straight seasons of 13-0, 10-3, and 10-3 when they entered the Pac 12, had extreme coaching stability, and they went from G5 $$$ to P5 $$$ on top of it.

CU, otoh, was coming off 5 disastrous and talent draining seasons of Dan Hawkins when they joined the Pac 12, and parlayed that by hiring Jon Embree as the first CU HC in the Pac 12 era. The talent was depleted, and we entered the premier “speed conference” at the time, when the Cu program had zero team speed.

In no way, shape or form were Utah and CU in the same shape when they joined the Pac 12. There couldn’t have been a worse time for CU to join the conference for a number of reasons. The money was better initially, but quickly became worse relative to other P5 conferences. I maintain that the timing of the move is one of the seminal events that led to this program being in its current shape.
 

Zachsquatch

Well-Known Member
lack of innovation and thinking outside the box, full stop

CU is stuck in the past, both from an academic institution and athletic department perspective — there are ways to improve without blowing the piggy bank

this is a wild statement, but I think Bohn may have been a better AD than George, granted my roommate was working for the AD at the time, but it felt like Bohn tried to be creative and generate excitement for sports…George is treating it too much like some monolithic org ala the PGA or MLB

politics also plays here — I identify as a progressive, and I don’t think that any liberals/progressives in the administration are willing to acknowledge that sports are important— where as in the conservative south and Midwest, they’re a cornerstone of life
 

goalline

Still trying to miss the ground
Club Member
A while ago I thought someone on this site claimed that the AD has to pay the university full out of state tuition for all scholarship athletes (with full schollies, like the football team). Is that accurate? Do other schools handle that the same way?
 
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