Salaries and Facilities

Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton told the Knoxville News Sentinel that it will be difficult for the athletic department teams to perform at a top 10 level if it continues to donate some $10 million per year to the university.

The athletic financial concerns are two-fold: Salaries and facilities.

The $10 million breakdown is as follows: $1.4 million for nonathletic scholarships; $1.15 million for UT parking garage debt services; 16,000 tickets sold at face value to the UT Development and Alumni Affairs Office, which in turns uses them for about $6 million in donations; up to $1 million in licensing revenues; 12 skyboxes for UT administration that would total about $360,000.

That doesn't count some 14,000 free student tickets with a face value of $3.5 million. UT does contribute $1 million in student activity fees for women's athletics.

No athletic department in the country has been as benevolent to a university as Tennessee's.

Should that generosity continue at the expense of athletic success?

No. But we're dealing with a delicate balance. The first priority for a university is academics, not athletics. UT's athletic department is not only self sufficient, it's giving. And right now, it's giving too much to the university.

Problem is, the university needs to be more self sufficient and not rely on so much revenue from the athletic department.

You might argue that the athletic department has too much fat. Hamilton inherited much of that. He's trimmed $3.5 million out of the budget in his first two full years as athletic director.

You might argue that the athletic department has made financial mistakes with basketball coaches. Jerry Green gets the final installment of a $1.1 million five-year buyout in January and Buzz Peterson took a lump sum buyout of $1.39 million in May.

But the athletic department could easily withstand those hits if it weren't ``donating'' $10 million a year to the university. Only an ill-informed person would say the athletic department lost money.

Hamilton can't make many more cuts. He can't afford to pinch pennies in the war on coaches' salaries and facilities.

Last year, Tennessee's nine football assistants averaged $155,000 per man. That might sound like a lot, but it ranked about sixth in the SEC.

The pool for UT assistants will increase by over $200,000 because David Cutcliffe was hired at $138,000 more than what Randy Sanders made as offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator John Chavis is expected to get about a $50,000 bump to roughly $300,000 and other assistants will get slight raises.

``I think there's a chance we will move up to the top three or four (in the SEC for football assistant salaries),'' Hamilton said.

Then, you have the challenge of upgrading facilities as the cost of construction skyrockets due to hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast.

``It's significant,'' Hamilton said of cost increases. ``Everybody's seen it across the board.''

The aquatic center came in $7.5 million over budget, causing the depth of the pool to be reduced from 10 feet to eight. The new soccer stadium and first phase renovation of Neyland Stadium came in over budget. UT is also looking at additional renovations to the baseball field and a new softball field.

``If we get an estimate from an architect, we're mentally adding a certain percentage to that in terms of what we need to raise to accommodate anticipated increases,'' Hamilton said. ``Some people I've talked to think the prices may go down somewhat over the next six months. But there are no guarantees. It could go up if we have another tragedy like we did on the Gulf Coast (with two hurricanes).''

Hamilton said the design for a new basketball practice facility looks great but UT doesn't have the funding to proceed. Hamilton said UT is looking for naming rights and big donors in the high six-to-seven-figure range to step forward.

Hamilton said he has 15 commitments for the 26 Thompson-Boling Arena skyboxes. The earliest the skyboxes could be constructed is for the 2007-08 season.

Regarding the new season-ticket policy for sideline seats, Hamilton said the response has been mixed. Two years ago, the athletic department said you could keep two sideline seats without making a donation. Now, you have four options: make a donation, transfer the tickets to a family member with a donation, move those seats to the end zone or not renew.

Fans have until Jan. 20 to make a decision.

Even with the new policy, Hamilton said about 33 percent of the season ticket holders in Neyland Stadium won't have to make a donation. He said about 25,000 of the roughly 77,000 season ticket holders will be grandfathered, with another 6,900 faculty and staff tickets sold at half price without a donation.

Of the 35,000 sideline seats, some are held by students and some by visiting fans.

``We have a limited number of sideline seats at Neyland Stadium, and that has to become a priority area for us,'' Hamilton said.

Asked if he saw a day in the future when all season tickets at Neyland Stadium would require a donation, Hamilton said: ``Do I see a situation somewhere down the road some day? Possibly. But I don't think it's any time in the near future"

Hamilton Looks at More Than Just W-L Record

Would 8-4 be a satisfactory record for Tennessee next season?

``It's more than just the record,'' said Mike Hamilton, Tennessee men's athletic director. ``I look at things wholelistically. I don't think you just look at the record.''

What else does Hamilton look for?

``Discipline, academics, attitude, progress - things that are necessary for a successful program of any nature in any sport. Those are the things that matter most as we prepare to do things we're expected to do and that's compete for championships.''

Hamilton Breaks Down Bowl Payouts

Because of expenses involved with postseason play, Tennessee's goal is to break even when it plays in a bowl game below the Capitol One.

That's because the payout and expenses just about offset each other.

Hamilton said the formula for an SEC team playing in a $1.5 million bowl is $800,000 plus mileage. For bowls that pay $1.5 to $4 million, you get $1 million and a small travel allowance. An SEC teams gets $1.6 million for playing in a BCS bowl and a travel allowance. The balance goes to the SEC office to be shared 13 ways - 12 SEC schools and the league office.

UT also must guarantee between 9,000 and 12,000 tickets, and that can be an expensive proposition. If UT doesn't sell its allotment, which has happened with some recent bowls, it must pay the difference.

UT also buys six tickets for each player and two for each band member. For the Cotton Bowl, that was $540 per player for tickets and $150 per band member, Hamilton said. UT also purchases tickets for the official party.

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