UGA Says Huge Surplus Not the Whole Financial Picture

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University of Georgia athletics reported an operating surplus of $46,341,763 for fiscal year 2021, more than double any other department nationally.

On its annual report to the NCAA, the school listed $169,064,656 in operating revenue and $122,722,893 in operating expenses for the fiscal year that started July 1, 2020 and ended June 30, 2021, according to information UGA released Wednesday afternoon to the Athens Banner-Herald through an open records request.

The school views its true surplus at around $5 million based on the way it says the report is constructed compared to how Georgia accounts for revenues and expenses.

Donor contributions from Magill Society members intended for facility projects are counted as operating revenue in the NCAA report, which is required of every member institution each January.

Georgia says about $17 million the school spent on capital projects such as its new football operations center is not counted as an operating expense.

The school said $15.9 million in interest income from investments is also reported as a revenue and $4.6 million in contributions to the university from athletics is also not counted as an expense. But athletics chose not to account for $3.2 million in student fees as an excess transfer to the school, which would have reduced the surplus. Another $3.1 million went to deferred facility maintenance and $5.7 million into reserves.

"As we indicate every year, the NCAA Membership Financial Report is straightforward, but distinctly defines revenues to include non-operating funds related to capital projects and interest income from investments but excludes operating departmental contributions to the University and non-operating current capital project expenditures,” Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said.  "Therefore, the balance shown does not reflect the full financial picture.”

Georgia released its report last year on Feb. 12, but waited this year until Wednesday — near the end of the state’s 90-business-day period for open records requests for athletic documents — to respond.

The report covers a school year when Georgia had just three home football games and played 10 games total (one was cancelled), including the Peach Bowl.

Ticket revenue dropped from $38.6 million to $4.7 million, and game expenses went from $7.7 million to $4.7 million.

Attendance was limited to 20,524 in 92,746 capacity Sanford Stadium during the 2020 season, but the school converted ticket refunds for those that opted for it into a donation to the COVID relief fund. Georgia said about $20 million was converted through that fund, the Banner-Herald reported.

Contributions to UGA for football went from $57.1 million to $42.5 million.

“We’ve got to thank our donors for stepping up in crucial moments during COVID when they turned potential refunds into donations and allowed us to keep operating,” Brooks told the athletic board’s finance committee on Tuesday. “That’s the strength of the Bulldog Nation and can never be undervalued.”

The SEC played a 10-game conference only schedule in 2020 while Big Ten teams Michigan (six games) and Ohio State (eight) and Pac-12 teams Oregon (seven) and Southern Cal (six) played fewer.

SEC schools each also got a $23 million advance from the conference to help offset the impact of the pandemic that is reflected in its conference distribution for the fiscal year which went from $3.2 million to $30.2 million, according to the Banner-Herald.

Thirteen SEC schools occupy the top 19 in total revenue, according to a survey done USA Today Sports in collaboration with the Knight-Newhouse Data project at Syracuse University.

Georgia athletics operating surplus was more than $5.8 million larger than the previous fiscal year, with $10.2 million less in revenue than a year earlier and $16.0 million less in expenses during a school year in which the last three and a half months were affected by the pandemic causing sports seasons to come to a halt.

Georgia’s recruiting expenses dropped from $3.8 million to more than $940,000, reflecting how recruiting’s dead period didn’t end until June of 2021.

“UGAA made significant adjustments to operations during FY2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brooks said, as reported by the Banner-Herald. “However, because of the commitment of our fans and donors, and the support from our coaches, staff, student-athletes, and the Southeastern Conference, UGAA was able to finish the year strong. We will continue to be fiscally prudent as we move forward in the post-pandemic collegiate athletics landscape.”

That said, Georgia is looking to spend more in the near future.

As reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionthe Georgia Athletic Association is projecting a revenue increase of 8 percent for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That’s according to the athletic board’s finance committee, which met via video conference call Tuesday morning to approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2023 that will be submitted for approval at next week’s full board meeting in Greensboro.

The committee did not mention the specific number for the budget, which will be presented to the full board next week. But, based on the revenue-and-expense statement shared at the athletic association’s winter board meeting in February, 8 percent would increase the FY 2023 budget by $12 million to $162.53 million.

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