At few places around the country is the staggering growth of college athletic spending moreevident than at the intersection of Lumpkin Street and Pinecrest Drive, where the UGA administration building sits. Georgia's budget has doubled since 2000.
The power behind that, of course, is football. In fiscal year 2007, the Bulldogs earned $34.5 million on football tickets alone.
"We have a tremendous fan base," said Crumley, Georgia's senior associate athletic director in charge of the budget. "It's football driven by 92,000 people. That's the No. 1 thing, the fan support. That sustains us. That leads over to your licensing dollars, your radio dollars."
What really sets Georgia apart, though, is not the total budget, but the budget surplus. In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, the Bulldogs' revenues outpaced their expenditures by more than $44 million, according to numbers submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
That's especially impressive considering that, according to several experts, fewer than 20 Division I-A college athletic departments in the country break even on a yearly basis.
In 2005, Georgia cleared an NCAA-best $23.9 million. In 2006, it had $20.4 million in surplus. The other 11 SEC schools had $24.6 million in combined surplus that year.
"I think we are better managed," UGA president Michael Adams said. "These are multi-million dollar enterprises today that require a high level of management expertise. If you look at today's new athletic director types they are more likely to be the MBA types that we have here than former coaches. You've seen that revolution in the SEC the last 10 years."
The fact that athletics director Damon Evans is just such an MBA-type is one of the reasons Adams promoted him to fill Vince Dooley's former job. When Evans was hired as an assistant athletics director in 1998, he instituted a zero-based budgeting system at the school, meaning each of Georgia's teams would have to make the case for its budget each year rather thansimply receiving a little more money than it got the previous year. For instance, the men's tennis team may get more money in a year it has several matches in California and less the next year because fewer travel dollars are needed.
We "sit down with every head coach or department head in January or February and say, ‘OK,what are your needs for the upcoming year?'" Crumley said. "Rather than just say we're going to add four percent to last year's budget, we go back to zero. Our coaches and staff are great that they are use d to that now. They come in and they detail everything they need. They're notasking for instantly more."
The only outside report Georgia receives is $3 million in student fees, and even without that figure, it would easily clear a profit.
"I say this not because he's a friend of mind, but I really do think that Damon Evans is at least showing some restraint at Georgia," said David Ridpath, director of the Drake Group, which has sounded alarms nationwide about the abrupt rise in college athletics spending. "But you don't see a lot of Damon Evanses out there."
Unlike some athletic departments around the country, which are a division of the university, Georgia athletics are operated by a separate association. That means that, while Evans ultimately works for and reports to Adams, Georgia has more freedom than some schools to build facilities, buy equipment, etc.
The Association is nearing completion of a $30 million building that will house offices and practice facilities for the men's and women's basketball teams and gymnastics team. Georgia took out a loan to pay for that structure, which upped its total debt to more than $100 million, which is one reason Evans doesn't want fans to think the large surplus numbers tomean the Bulldogs don't need any more money.
Instead, he hopes they show a level of financial restraint that makes his constituents feel good about their investment in the program.
"When donors look at us," he said, "I want them to say, ‘Boy, they manage our money in a prudent way.'"
By the Numbers
Here's a look at the revenue Georgia's Athletic Association projects it will receive fiscal year 2008, which began July 1 of this year.
Football tickets $15,100,000
Baseball tickets $175,000
Men's basketball tickets $750,000
Women's basketball tickets $100,000
Gymnastics tickets $275,000
Product endorsements $600,000
SEC TV – football $3,700,000
SEC TV – basketball $950,000
Radio profit split $1,500,000
SEC Distribution $400,000
NCAA Distribution $300,000
SEC Bowls $1,700,000
SEC Championship Game $1,000,000
NCAA Basketball Tournament $1,200,000
SEC Basketball Tournament $250,000
Sky Suites $4,064,416
Student fees $3,000,000
Touchdown Club $30,000
Interest Income $1,025,000
Internet royalties $360,000
Sales Tax $6,000
UGA airplane $250,000
Cheerleading camp $150,000
NCAA events $220,000
*Mostly ticket priority giving
Where does it all go?
Here are Georgia's projected spending figures for the 2008 fiscal year:
General Administration $5,471,097
Athletic sports $22,839,147
Ticket office $2,157,586
Academic counseling $1,620,747
Development office $1,257,031
Loan payments $6,515,284
Sports medicine $2,033,116
Contingency fund $463,730
Reserve fund* $5,820,000
General sports $10,749,093
Plant operations $5,333,536
Sports information $1,201,109
Sky Suites $923,000
Facility maintenance $923,000
Tennis facility $20,050