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Back in Black: Tennessee Surplus Due to Severance Cuts

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After running a $6.5 million deficit in 2018, the University of Tennessee athletic department wrapped up fiscal year 2019 with a $789,730 surplus.

As reported by the Knoxville News Sentinel, Tennessee operated at a $10.8 million surplus in the 2017 fiscal year after a $12.4 million surplus in 2016 and $13.2 million surplus in 2015. Last year's anomaly was caused in large part by contract buyouts of former football coach Butch Jones and his staff, as well as the severance package afforded former athletic director John Currie.

Total severance in 2018 approached $14 million. By comparison, last year's outlay was $873,806 — the bulk of which stemming from the March firing of women's basketball coach Holly Warlick. Jones and his former assistance still received payments in 2019, but they were accounted for in 2018.

The News Sentinel further reported that athletic department revenues from ticket sales ($36.2 million) and media rights ($34.9 million) increased in the 2019 fiscal year, while contributions ($31.3 million) decreased by nearly $3 million. Tennessee's ascension to the number-one ranking in men's basketball during the 2018-19 season is credited for contributing to that program's $800,000 surge in ticket revenue to $5.2 million.

The men's basketball program operated at a $3.8 million surplus for FY 2019, which ended June 30, but football remains the athletic department's bread-winner — operating at a $43.4 million surplus last year. 

Coaching, administrative and support staff salaries remain the department’s biggest expense, and they increased by nearly $3.4 million in the 2019 fiscal year to $51 million.

Overall, Tennessee had $143.8 million in revenue and $143 million in expenses. That compares to $143.5 million in revenue in the 2018 fiscal year and $150 million in expenses.

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