Thank you, Mike Hamilton.

We all gripe about how the administration at Georgia seems to focus more on the financial bottom line than on the athletic success bottom line, but things could be much, much worse.

Now, after staggering to losing football seasons in four of the last five years and seeing attendance drop to levels last seen in the 1970s, the Vols find themselves mired in more than $200 million of debt, the most in the SEC, with reserves of just $1.95 million, the least in the conference.

The athletic department spends a startling $21 million a year on debt payments, $13.5 million of which comes from the school’s stressed $99.5 million athletic budget and the rest from donations.

That’s what you get when everyone connected to a once-successful football program dips into a till that slowly and surely dwindles.  Multi-million dollar contributions to the school, local taxes, seemingly random stadium expansions and, of course, expensive buy-out payments to fired coaches all took their toll.  Speaking of which, ain’t this a kick in the (urnge) pants?

Tennessee’s reserves were close to $30 million about five years ago, but they’ve been depleted by… $11.4 million in buyouts to fired coaches in football, basketball and baseball, as well as administrators. Hamilton walked away in 2011 with a $1.335 million buyout.

None of that includes a $5 million buyout owed Derek Dooley, who was fired as Tennessee’s football coach in November, and $2 million to his assistants. That $7 million will have to be found in this year’s budget.

I can’t say which stings worse.

But a savior arises.

The financial cavalry is on the way, though, in the form of additional TV revenue from the SEC’s contracts with ESPN and CBS. Those deals average $205 million a year for the league and they are expected to jump to about $300 million annually when they are updated. The conference is renegotiating the contracts to account for the growth to 14 teams with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.

Hart said SEC athletic directors have not been told exactly how much new revenue that will mean, but projections are $5 million to $10 million a year for each school. Nowhere in the SEC will that be more welcome than at Tennessee.

You think these guys oppose conference expansion?


UPDATE:  Year2 looks around the rest of the SEC to see how much its athletic departments have larded themselves up with debt.  ‘Bama and LSU are bigger borrowers than UT; it’s just that they haven’t suffered from a drop in fan support like the Vols have.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

33 responses to “Thank you, Mike Hamilton.

  1. JasonC

    Since Dooley got a job with the Cowboys, isn’t Tenn off the hook for the buyout?

    • Tennessee is only off the hook for the amount Dallas is paying Dooley. They still must pay anything over that amount up to the total contract package. At least, that’s how most of those buyouts are written.

  2. Go Dawgs!

    Tennessee has gone from being one of the capitals of the Southeastern Conference to being one of the most striking cautionary tales in the history of sports.

    If they had it to do over again, think they would have handled the firing of Phil Fulmer differently? Maybe given him another year? From the moment the axe fell on his neck, everything that UT has done has been the wrong thing. I’m hoping the Fire Mark Richt crowd has been watching, too. If they ever get whipped back up into a frenzy, I’ll point out that could just as easily be Georgia. All it takes is one bad decision snowballing into another… and another… and another.

    • Cousin Eddie

      As I read this I thought, how many ut fans would take Fulmer back. Hamilton has to be the worst ad ever.

    • AusDawg85

      There is no Fire CMR crowd….at least until we suffer a loss next season.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      I’ve posted more than once that Georgia wanted nothing to do with the merry-go-round coaching circus that has become uT football. It fell on the Eeyore Dogs deaf ears. Thankfully the “Bobo has a crayon” meme has quieted. Odd that Coach Fox’s record gets overlooked by that same faction. Not that I want him the focus of any Boo Birds.

      • Funny you don’t want it, but never fail to mention it when the chance presents itself.

        • AthensHomerDawg

          It has become trite to bash Bobo for not winning the big game, so how can one refrain when confronted with such an egregious example as “Bobo has a Crayon” from coming to his defense? I am duty-bound to state the obvious one last time: it’s not sporting to constantly take shots at our OC and make it the whole nucleus of a shock blog. I suppose you got a taste of that yourself with the Hijo meme. At any rate you’re still hurt over my pointing out your lack of “due diligence” with respect to a prospective DC hire. Really Hijo….McGarity is a “sport” but he is not hiring a DC that could be facing jail time. It really pissed in your “grits” when your mentor agreed. I admit that it was poor form on my part you being a lawdawg and all. However, in my defense, you hung that one out over the plate and I just had to smack it. I was weak and now I’M SORRY. “There …. now we can be friends again.”

          • Your entire response shows a major reading comprehension issue.

            In order, 1) “Crayon” is not my meme, and never has been. Nor was it ever the “nucleus” of either blog I write for. 2) The Hijo thing is a joke to yourself. It’s you being a douche, but that’s how you’ve always handled yourself. 3) Todd Grantham is the defensive coordinator. 4) If you’re referring to Travis Jones, you obviously failed to read the “for lack of a better example” caveat. His criminal past was well known, and a likely overwhelming hurdle to employment in Athens. But I didn’t care to look in to realistic candidates for the job at that time, hence the one that was always thrown about when Garner threatened to leave time and again was the one I mentioned because I didn’t care to come up with a better example. 5) We’ve never been friends, you’re just some douche he for one reason or another feels he needs me to establish their own self worth. Which is about the saddest thing I’ve ever encountered.

            Did you understand all that, or do I need to dumb it down even further so a self proclaimed non lawyer like yourself can understand what words actually mean?

          • and the best part, you’re too much of a [derogatory term for a female sex organ] to say any of that on either blog I write for, and feel obliged to go whining like a little baby on someone else’s blog. As said before, the Senator deserves better than this.

    • mspruell

      Tennessee’s arrogance made them overlook or fail to consider all possible consequences of canning Fulmer.

      Conrad had Lord Jim state the obvious: “Who among us has not begged God for a second chance?”

      Cher sang it best: “If I could turn back time. If I could find a way…”

      Unfortunately, do-overs, as we learned in this year’s SECCG, do not exist and we must live with the result we did not think would occur.

      • I don’t find the problem being Fulmer getting let go, as much as the ridiculous decision to follow him with Kiffin instead of a candidate that wasn’t a cheating pile of daddy’s boy.

    • Debby Balcer

      +1. That has been my thought all along.

  3. DawgPhan

    I think it is a little unfair to lump $160 million in construction as debt. Obviously it is, but I would imagine many of the schools in the conference carry some construction debt…I could be wrong though.

    But a school run by dumb hillbillies is bound to have money woes.

  4. Can you believe Slive’s good fortune of expanding the conference and getting a Heisman trophy-winning QB in year 1 that blows the doors off Oklahoma in the Jerry Dome? Talk about hitting the jackpot. I bet the tone of the negotiations with the networks after this season are much different than those prior.

  5. If this were English football, Tennessee would = Leeds or Portsmouth.

    • DawgPhan

      if this was prime numbers Tennessee would totally be 11. yuck yuck yuck.

    • Normaltown Mike

      Some others:
      -Bama = Man U.
      -A&M = Man City
      -Georgia = Arsenal
      -LSU = Liverpool
      -Auburn = Tottenham
      -UF = Chelsea
      -Ark = Millwall
      -USC = Newcastle
      -Vandy = Aston Villa
      -Kentucky = Plymouth Argyle.

      I have no idea about Mizzou

    • AthensHomerDawg

      You know it is officially the off season and signing day just can’t get here fast enough when you find yourself on a respected Georgia football blog and there are brazen attempts at humor using English football (code word for soccer) as part of the punch line. I’m glad Erk can’t see this.

      • Normaltown Mike

        Another good sign that college football is on hiatus is when Colin Cowherd does one of his absurd brackets to pass the time (Breakfast Cereal bracket or the Superhero bracket are some recent examples).

      • 83Dawg

        the EPL is as good as/better league than the SEC…

        • AthensHomerDawg

          Soooooooo…… the EPL a professional team…essentially the NFL of English soccer is as good/better league than the college football conference SEC. ” I don’t believe I would have told that.” h/t LG

  6. W Cobb Dawg

    Not surprised Year2 had trouble looking into auburn’s books. The records are only available by special request, I think he said. Probably don’t want anyone snooping around. And after last season their books are probably heading in the same direction as ut’s.

  7. Cojones

    You know, somehow it seems very important to lay out debt in order that alums can understand what they specifically are contributing to or for (Case in point, see a Pres’s retirement estate called Adam’s Apple in Costa Rico). Can an athletic arm of a public U use that U as collateral for indebtedness? Since the Athletic Dept and teams can be disbanded/rebanded (see Vandy), doesn’t that put all the onus for repayment of athletic debt on the school admin/pres? Interesting.

    And if the NCAA gives the Death Sentence to a program, what does that do to the indebtedness? Tenn may become the canary in the mine for athletic debt.

  8. Beakerdawg

    Normaltown Mike
    As an Arsenal fan, you are spot on about the comparison with Georgia.
    Mizzou = Wolverhampton

  9. JCB

    Re the update, I have a question, not sure if anyone knows the answer. The ARK debt indicates debt related to the new athletic center. UT just finished a new football facility, so why is that debt not included? Just curious if anyone knows the answer.