I guess this Dean Legge post about dwindling profits at the University of Georgia is supposed to arouse my anxiety about the athletic department’s management skills. Speaking as someone who has no problem expressing that anxiety when it’s justified, I have no problem saying there’s no outrage here.
The main reason for that is if you’re someone who has any familiarity with Georgia’s recent financial history, there’s really no news in what Legge writes. Georgia’s outsized “profitability” of a few years ago was largely fueled by lower than conference norm expenses. Now that Kirby Smart is forcing Butts-Mehre to play catch up with things like facilities and recruiting budgets, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the profit margin is being squeezed.
The real question here is why anyone outside of Greg McGarity should give a shit about Georgia’s athletic profits in the first place. What we as fans should care about is simply whether those funds are being spent sensibly to achieve excellence. When the reserve fund wins a single football game, let me know, and I’ll look upon it differently.
Ah, you say, but Legge points out that Georgia lags in raising money behind its SEC peer institutions.
Twelve years ago not only was UGA the leader in the SEC with donations of $28,305,817. It was taking in about $10.8 million more in contributions than Texas A&M, about $1.5 million more in contributions than the Gators, about $5.5 million more than Auburn, about $13.5 million more than Tennessee and about $17.2 more than LSU.
In the last 12 years, those institutions have zipped past UGA in raising money for athletics according to USA Today’s reporting on all 230 NCAA public athletic departments in Division I…
… Every SEC member institution has increased its donations by anything from a heathy to an incredible amount… but UGA seems to have settled with a modest 18 percent difference when comparing 2005 contributions to 2016. One should also consider the rate of inflation over that time as $1 in 2005 would equal about $1.25 today.
All of that information indicates that UGA either doesn’t care or doesn’t want to raise more money; can’t come up with the projects to raise the money for; hasn’t yet or won’t identify new donors; doesn’t see the need to raise money (lack of vision); or has become comfortable asking donors to remain at their current level of giving only… or, perhaps UGA just isn’t very good at raising money.
Or perhaps Georgia never should have hired Michael Adams. When you bring on a president who promptly proceeds to alienate a third of the donor base, there are repercussions to the bottom line. And that’s the thing about alienated people — it’s hard to talk ’em back.
Finally, Legge is shocked, shocked to find that the state legislature’s financial support of the school is dwindling.
But UGA, and every other public higher education institution, has had lower and lower money coming from state capitals as time goes on. For the current fiscal year, FY 2018, the State of Georgia appropriated $473.3 million to UGA. The University of Georgia’s budget for FY 2018 is $1.6 billon. So the State gave UGA only 29% of the funds necessary to function. The other 71% had to come from somewhere else. In years gone by UGA was funded primarily from the State. That’s not the case any more, and it won’t change in the future.
That’s an amazing shock to the system. Public schools have had to learn how to become much more “private” in many ways. The most important lesson learned over the past two decades is that the State isn’t going to pay for UGA… UGA must figure out how to pay for itself. And after two-plus centuries of being able to be flexible thanks to the state legislature, that’s no longer the case.
Guess what? That’s the story across the South, and indeed across much of the country. Public support for secondary education steadily shrinks. It’s hardly a Georgia Way thing.
Legge is right that the athletic department is expected to make up some of the difference. That, too, isn’t much of a surprise, especially to Jere Morehead, who received that kind of news when the Regents offered him the job.
Which brings us to Legge’s conclusion.
… Once a power broker at the intersection of money and college sports, UGA’s athletic revenues are now 9th-best in a 14-team league.
Perhaps it is an oversimplification to ask if Georgia wants to be 9th best in the SEC in money – because money < championships. But the truth is that’s the wrong way to look at it. Georgia should be exhausting itself trying to best figure out how it can maximize the monetary potential of its fanbase.
Doing that will increase the chances of championships in the future. Money leads to and follows championships.
Except for all the times when Georgia’s profit margin was bigger, that is.
“Georgia should be exhausting itself trying to best figure out how it can maximize the monetary potential of its fanbase.” If you’re the Georgia Way, that’s winning. If you’re a wallet, well, that’s hardly a surprise.