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Moos: WSU athletics has gone as far as it can in cutting expenses; answer to deficit is greater revenue

THE BUDGET DEFICIT for Washington State's athletic department in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 was just under $13 million -- the eighth-straight year WSU has posted a loss, but the third consecutive in which the deficit narrowed. WSU athletic director Moos believes the FY17 deficit will fall to $10 million and that the department could hit break even in 2020. He also believes the trend line is one state legislators ought pay attention to.

Complete budget numbers for FY 2016 generally come out in March, but Moos noted that athletics posted record revenue of $58.8 million, up nearly 9 percent from FY 2015 and up 49 percent since FY 2010.

The revenue increase was driven in large part by improved season ticket sales and annual giving donations.

Expenses increased 6.4 percent, to $71.69 million, in FY16 from FY15,Moos said. He noted that WSU's athletics expenses are the lowest of all 65 Power 5 schools. While that stat requires perspective in that WSU fields 17 varsity sports while many others offer between 20 and 40, the fact is that WSU is highly efficient when it comes to the biggest sport on the college landscape. Per the most recent available U.S. Department of Education statistics, WSU's expenses for football are $4.1 million less per year than Oregon's and $12.5 million less than Washington's (The UW last year estimated a deficit of $14.8 million in FY 16).

WSU's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, so the FY16 numbers cover the 2015 football season, not the just-concluded season.  WSU posted a $12.9 million loss in FY 16, compared with a $13.2 million loss in FY15.  In FY14, the loss was $13.7 million.

“We have record revenue streams coming in,” said Moos. “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do since I came in back in 2010 (see chart below).  But you take into account that our expenditures are the lowest in the Pac-12 and Power 5, and people should not think – especially the people in Olympia – that there are a lot of frills or that we are spending money without having a plan. We’ve gone about as far as we can go in cutting expenses. If we go further, it will start having an adverse effect on the revenue lines.

“We are where we thought would be, and we’re pulling ourselves out of that deficit -- I think it’s going to take three years or so. It’s looking like the deficit is going to come out at around $10 million or less in (FY17) and that took some cuts … We trimmed close to $1 million dollars and we gained about $2 million. And President Schulz has been tremendous in regards to his support."

Moos also highlighted that CAF annual donations, which increased less than $50,000 total over 2003-10 before his arrival, have increased $3.15 million from FY 10 - FY 16, with FY 17 on pace for another all-time high. (Note: The figures represent CAF-only donations, not the broader "contributions" catch-all often referred to).


“President Schulz has been very creative in finding justifiable ways to assist us in our revenue streams. At the same time, when you look at Utah receiving $8 million from the state … Arizona State receiving $10 million, I’m amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish. And I don’t think we want to harm the current revenue streams or the potential in increasing those streams. Sometimes cuts start digging into a sports program where it’s going to in turn reflect on the scoreboard. I’d hate to see all the ground we’ve gained go down the tubes. You can go from first to worst overnight in this business,” said Moos.

While WSU is at historic highs in several revenue streams, fundraising historically has posed  hurdles at Washington State in comparison to its Pac-12 brethren. Asked if that has to do with a miserly culture or something else, Moos said, “I think the message is starting to get through (to alums and fans),” said Moos. “We need to have people joining the Cougar Athletic Fund and growing that. The annual giving number needs to be equal to the cost of scholarships, and we’re about $5.5 million short. Even though we’re gaining ground, the cost of those scholarships continues to move upwards. We have room for a lot more improvement in the CAF.”

WSU is believed to be the only school in the Pac-12 whose scholarship fund falls short of covering all athletes. Moos must make up that $5.5 million annual chasm through his operating budget. The CAF generated a record $5.8 million in FY16, and the target for '17 is $7 million. That's solid growth, but still well short of what's needed.

Another large expense line item is debt service on the $130 million in bonded financing used to construct the state-of-the-art Cougar Football Complex and the revenue-boosting premium seating addition to the south side of Martin Stadium. Following a decade of facilities neglect in athletics, Moos started investing heavily in upgrades when he came on board in the spring of 2010. The debt service on those projects is about $9 million per year.

“This was all by design -- we had to have an investment early on and a bit of patience to be where we are now, and in a position to continue to grow, " Moos said. "We had to make a decision if we were going to invest at that time. President Floyd and I knew at that time that the deficit would occur. And we also knew we would eventually pull out of it, which we’re doing right now."

REVENUE FROM THE Pac-12 Networks is far less -- believed to be around $2 million per school per year, according to the San Jose Mercury News --  than what was projected by commissioner Larry Scott at the outset, but Moos sees the number climbing over time.

“Sure, I’d love to be seeing $8-10 million from that -- our problems would almost solved. I do think in time we’ll see half that, $5-6 million. And yes, we all got sugar plumbs in our heads in looking at what (it could be) but I can say this, and this is just me and not my AD colleagues: I look at the Pac-12 Networks as a bonus. More important to me with the Pac-12 Networks was exposure to Washington State. That had every bit as much value to me if not more as the monetary potential,” said Moos.

Asked about the need to upgrade WSU's indoor practice facility, Moos said he’d like to have had it in place “yesterday.”

“We’re looking at some naming opportunities, some big naming-type opportunities that will hopefully address that project. I’m quite encouraged by that, but we’re also talking about a $28 million facility that we have to have funded. And that’s a lot of money,” said Moos.

Moos said WSU is close to having the funding in place for long-planned baseball clubhouse and “in a perfect world I would hope that facility would be in place for 2018.”  Moos said approval from the Board of Regents for facilities improvements in swimming ($1.5 million to $2 million) is “down the road here a little bit spring … I’m very optimistic that one will be in the works this year.”

“We’ve got to address the facilities projects, and the budget, and I believe we have,” said Moos.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Membership in the Cougar Athletic Fund in FY 16 reached 7,714 and annual giving was $5.8 million, both all-time highs, said Moos. The projection for CAF annual donations in FY 17 is to surpass $7 million.
  • Season tickets were at an all-time high and Martin Stadium was at 96 percent capacity this past season, Moos said. “That’s all very, very impressive and I really applaud our fans, that’s third in the Pac-12 in capacity. At the same time, some of the great aspects of Washington State are also the challenges,” said Moos who noted Martin Stadium’s seating capacity is 32,952 and considerably smaller than it’s Pac-12 neighbors. 
  • Moos said he’s hopeful expanded beer sales will take place this coming season but more dialogue needs to happen with the Liquor Control Board. That revenue stream could mean as much as $1 million per year to WSU.
  • Out-of-state tuition always plays a large role in WSU expenses, with 82 percent of WSU’s men’s athletes from outside the state, and 78 percent of its women student-athletes are from outside Washington. It comes out to be about $2.7 million per year in out-of-state tuition fees.


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