UT grid tickets going up

The University of Tennessee Athletics Department (UTAD) announced Monday season ticket prices for the 2008 football season will be $315 for seven home games. The price represents a $19 increase for the season or $2.71 per game. Chairback seat season tickets are $3 more per game. A total of 14.25 percent of the $315 season ticket price, or approximately $39.29, is sales tax.

"We spent countless hours looking at alternatives to the ticket price increase," UT Athletics Director Mike Hamilton said. "Unfortunately we have to make a modest adjustment to our ticket prices to be able to continue to recruit, educate and train world-class student-athletes while continuing to be self-sufficient and not using tax or university dollars."

Tennessee's new season ticket price is tied with Arkansas for fifth in the SEC. Additionally, at most SEC schools, 60 to 80 percent of seats require a donation to athletics. Only 29 percent of Neyland Stadium seats are tied to a donation to athletics.

Individual game ticket prices for the Vols' home games will be $70 for Florida and Alabama; $50 for UAB, Mississippi State and Kentucky; and $40 for Northern Illinois and Wyoming.

"By separating our pricing structure for season tickets and individual games, our season ticket holders essentially receive a discount of $55," Hamilton said.

In addition to the season ticket price increase, the University of Tennessee also announced that faculty/staff ticket prices will rise from half price to 80 percent of the normal ticket price to coincide with IRS benefit guidelines.

The increases are projected to raise $1.95 million, which will be used for increased operating costs for all 20 sports and to ensure UTAD can maintain financial independence from the university while continuing its tradition of giving back to the university.

"The money generated from the football program funds approximately 85 percent of our budget and allows all our student-athletes – men and women – to have the opportunity to compete on a national level while achieving academic success," Hamilton said. "It also allows us to continue to be one of a handful of college athletics programs that is self-sufficient and a great partner for the university."

Under Hamilton's leadership, the men's athletics department has cut its operating budget from $24.06 million in 2003 to $22.88 million in 2007.

Although UTAD has made significant strides in controlling its operating budget and raising funds, the athletics department still faces challenges to control costs that are beyond its control:

-- Rising tuition costs have a proportionate effect on the athletics department budget. Last year, UTAD's scholarship bill was $7.1 million, up from $6.9 million in 2005-06. Compounding the problem is the fact that UTAD pays out-of-state tuition for 80 percent of its student-athletes.

-- Salary costs for the department rose by $390,000 in 2007-08 due to the state-mandated 3 percent raise for all employees.

-- The athletics department provides funding for three areas without having any oversight of the units. Last year, the department spent $1.64 million to operate the Thornton Athletics Student Center, $1.35 million to cover the budget shortfall for Thompson-Boling Arena, and $312,000 to cover the operating deficit on Gibbs Hall even though the athletics department only uses 49 percent of the rooms and pays the full rate for each room.

Football is the biggest revenue source for UT athletics, allowing the department to remain self-sufficient while operating 20 competitive sports. All funding for the athletics department comes from monies generated by athletics' resources and not from appropriated funding by the state of Tennessee or other university-related revenues.

The University of Tennessee athletics department is one of fewer than 10 departments in the country that receives no funds from state subsidies or taxes. UTAD primarily is funded by donations to the Volunteer Athletics & Scholarship Fund and Lady Vol Boost-Her Club, as well as revenue from football, men's basketball and women's basketball. The only non-athletics department generated revenue is a $1 million contribution to the women's athletics department coming from student fees.

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