|More to come?|
STEVE BERKOWITZ | USA TODAY | 2-9-21
For all of its historical success on the field, UCLA’s athletics department generally has been in the middle of the pack among Power Five public schools when it comes to finances. Rarely spectacular, almost always steadily growing — but never out of balance. Now, for a second consecutive year, UCLA has recorded a massive annual operating deficit — just over $21.7 million for its 2020 fiscal year, according to the financial report it submitted to the NCAA in January and provided to USA TODAY Sports in response to an open-records request. This means UCLA has totaled more than $40.6 million in operating debt over its past two fiscal years. And that’s without facing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on revenue.
“This past year was a challenging one financially in all of collegiate athletics, with UCLA athletics being no exception,” UCLA's athletics department said in a statement provided by spokeswoman Liza David. “The pandemic’s impact will be felt throughout the coming years, but we are committed to reaching long-term fiscal stability for our athletic program. We will continue to provide our student-athletes a championship experience on and off the field and build on our rich history of developing them for success in sports and in life.”
Last year, The (San Jose) Mercury News reported that UCLA athletics’ 2019 deficit will be covered by an interest-bearing loan from the campus’ central fund. Although USA TODAY Sports asked in writing how the 2020 deficit would be addressed, David did not provide that information.
This is in contrast with the University of California system’s other Pac-12 school in Berkeley. University and athletics department officials there have acknowledged that nearly $85 million in annual operating deficits from 2015 through 2019 weren’t treated as accumulated debt, to be repaid by the athletics department at some point. They were simply covered by the university. In addition, Cal provided a net total of nearly $2 million more in student fees and institutional support. For fiscal 2020, Cal reported a $3.2 million operating surplus, but that was based on revenues that included a net of $20 million in student fees and institutional support.
Many college athletics departments felt the effects of the pandemic during the last three to four months of fiscal cycles that ended June 30. In most cases, both revenues and expenses ended up declining. Even Texas’ perennial financial juggernaut saw operating revenues drop by about $23 million to just over $200 million and operating expenses drop by more than $30 million to just under $174 million.
Schools across the country have been seeing attendance at games decline, and UCLA’s trouble in fiscal 2020 likely was exacerbated by having six home football games during the 2019 season after having seven during the 2018 season. In addition, the Bruins had a 3-9 record in 2018 and a 4-8 mark in 2019. Overall, football ticket revenue was down by more $3.2 million in fiscal 2020.
On the expense side, spending was down in nearly all categories except administrative and support staff compensation, which increased by about $1 million to $24.1 million.