A simple goal for any businessman is to spend less and make more, but Kansas State athletic director John Currie has different ambitions in mind when transitioning from one fiscal year to the next.
“Some costs go up,” Currie said. “The cost of scholarship goes up. We have to generate that money. It is not a write-off. Scholarships go up every year, health insurance goes up every year. Lots of those things do go up.
“You can always cut and make tough decisions, but that may not always be the smart decision. Tough decisions impact people and impact programs. It is a continuous balancing act that requires discipline.”
Never more so than now.
Sweeping changes are coming in college athletics, including four-year scholarships that, for the first time, will include cost of attendance. That comes shortly after the NCAA allowed schools to expand their meal plans to all meals and snacks for its student-athletes.
Each change represents roughly an additional $1 million expense that impacts the bottom line. Plus, K-State recently added women’s soccer, which will eventually cost around $1.2 million per year and create an additional expense until the equestrian team is dissolved.
But K-State’s athletic department is well positioned to remain profitable in future years after making more than $72.9 million during the 2014 fiscal year and spending close to $62.6 million.
Though its $10.3 million in profit was its lowest figure since 2009 – a 6.95-percent decline from 2013 and a steep fall from 2011 when myriad donations toward the West Stadium Center led to $23.4 million in profit – he thinks it represented a positive step.
The Wildcats set all-time highs for revenue, expenses, football revenue, ticket sales and concession sales in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended in June.
K-State did so while funding scholarships in women’s sports at a higher level than previous years, when some teams chose to hold scholarships for future recruits, and boosting aid by nearly $1 million in 2013.
State and institutional support for the department, which was $778,484 in 2013, was no longer part of the budget.
“We are proud of the fact that in my first year (2009) that support made about 6 percent of our budget,” Currie said. “This last year, it was half a percent from student fees. That is an incredible shift.”
K-State is projecting a budget of $65.6 million for fiscal year 2015. And that number will likely increase in 2016.
“This upcoming fiscal year is going to represent one of the largest expansions in the value of a student-athlete scholarship in the history of the program,” Currie said. “Sixty-five schools will combine to have more than $100 million that transfers from the budget to the student-athlete.”
One solution to rising expenses will always be increasing the price of tickets at K-State sporting events, but Currie does not expect a radical change in that area.
“We have tremendous attendance for football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, volleyball and all of our sports,” Currie said. “One reason we have that is because we try to be respectful of our pricing models to ensure that there is a place in our building for all K-State fans. We are committed to that, even if it means leaving a little bit of money on the table.”
Currie thinks the bottom line can remain the same without belt tightening.
“We have to be real careful as we absorb that new expense,” Currie said. “Maybe this is a year where the learning specialist or (another) quality control coach or some other person like that, maybe we don’t add someone like that. We already have $1.2 million of new expense this year in the new nutrition, which has been an incredible benefit to our student athletes. We just have to be very careful about that.”