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IOWA CITY — Deficits that the University of Iowa and Iowa State University projected for their athletics operations over the last pandemic-plagued season were not as steep as feared, according to newly released Board of Regents budget documents.
To be sure, the Hawkeyes and Cyclones did lose millions in the fiscal year that ended June 30, the records show. Still, Hawkeye income was $35.8 million above expectations and Cyclone income was $15 million better than anticipated.
University of Northern Iowa Athletics, which is not self-sufficient like at the larger schools, ended fiscal 2021 about $3 million over budget. That UNI positive balance in large part came thanks to a spike in support from the main campus — which increased its athletics funding from a budgeted $3.2 million to nearly $8 million.
And all three departments are projecting a return to mostly normal operations in the upcoming academic year.
“Most revenue sources for FY 2022 are anticipated to return to pre-pandemic levels, with the sports returning to full schedules without fan attendance restrictions,” according to the UI portion of the board report. “These include ticket sales, multimedia income, athletic conference distributions, foundation support, and premium seat revenue.”
Instead of a predicted $74.8 million deficit for UI Athletics — which eliminated three men’s sports in light of the anticipated losses — the department emerged from the 2021 budget year with a $44.7 million deficit, aided by higher-than-expected conference, multimedia and philanthropic income.
Had the Hawkeyes stuck to their budgeted $98 million in expenses for fiscal 2021, the ending deficit would have been smaller at a $39 million loss. But expenses went about $6 million over budget — with the department spending $1.5 million more than expected on football; nearly $3 million more than planned on administration; and $3 million more on buildings and grounds.
Some UI Athletics expense categories came in lower than expected — like basketball and wrestling. The Gazette recently reported that no football coaches took voluntary salary reductions, while coaches of most other sports did.
To help with what ended up being a nearly $45 million deficit, the typically self-sufficient UI Athletics borrowed $50 million from the main campus — which also, according to the new regent budget report, is facing a pandemic-compelled crunch that could result in program closures.
“The Iowa Athletics Department is arranging $50 million in financing with the university to bridge the financial shortfall in FY2021, as well as providing for some additional backup in FY 2022, during this transitional year,” according to board documents.
Terms of that loan, provided to The Gazette this week following a public records request, show it must be repaid in 15 years at the latest. The total interest rate factor for the first five years is 2.5 percent, with repricing occurring every five years. That means the rate — which can’t exceed 5 percent total — next will be set July 1, 2026.
According to an agreement dated June 30, 2021, the debt will be paid back through athletics operating proceeds and can be paid back early without penalty. “The payment plan may be amended upon mutual consent,” according to the agreement, which gives — as an example — adjusting the principal amount “due to early payments.”
The UI Athletics budget for fiscal 2022 is $117 million, That’s above its $103.7 million in expenses in fiscal 2021, but still below its $120 million level in fiscal 2020 and well below its $146 million operating expenses in fiscal 2019, when revenues neared $152 million.
Next year’s budget anticipates $20.4 million in football-specific revenue, shy of the $22 million in fiscal 2020. It’s expecting about $3.5 million from men’s and women’s basketball combined, compared with $3.6 million in fiscal 2020. Hawkeye wrestling revenue for next year is budgeted to be on par with fiscal 2020.
UI Athletics is expecting to spend $31.6 million on football next year — above that program’s 2021 budget of $23 million and its 2020 budget of $29.7 million. It’s expecting to spend $17 million on administration and general expenses, above the $11.8 million budgeted for fiscal 2021.
The university’s “other” sports expenses are projected to be about $4.7 million for men’s programs and $13 million for women’s programs. While those women’s program expenses are predicted to be higher than they’ve been in years, the men’s “other” sports program expenses are lower — like from 2020, when they were budgeted at $6.8 million.
That reduction likely reflects the university’s decision to eliminate men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and men’s swimming and diving. UI Athletics tried to eliminate women’s swimming and diving too, but a lawsuit and court order hinting the university would lose over gender equity compelled the athletics department to rescind that closure.
Next Cyclone season
The Cyclones emerged from fiscal 2021 with a $20 million deficit, instead of the predicted $35 million negative gap between revenues and expenses.
For the upcoming year, ISU Athletics is expecting to generate about $98.6 million in revenue with a “return to normal,” including “full fan attendance at all athletics, performing arts, and other events.”
Unlike at the UI, ISU Athletics during the pandemic hasn’t taken any help from the university’s general fund. ISU, though, was able to host four home football games with 25 percent fan capacity. Its other events at Hilton Coliseum were limited to 10 percent capacity.
Thanks to that meager revenue and higher-than-budgeted conference, multimedia and philanthropic revenue, ISU brought in $23.8 million more than expected. ISU also got a big boost in gifts — reaching $16 million, compared with the $2.3 million it forecast.
The Cyclones expect donations to keep coming in the new year, budgeting $22.8 million in foundation support and strong conference revenue — bringing its total budget above fiscal 2019 totals.
“Donations to the annual Cyclone Club fund remained consistent as donors and fans have been loyal supporters of the program during these challenging times,” according to the ISU portion of the board report.
Next Panther season
UNI Athletics is expecting a balanced budget of $14.5 million — above its fiscal 2021 budget of $12.7 million but below its 2019 level of $15.1 million.
The new budget returns the main campus contribution to pre-pandemic levels of about $3.4 million and it expects an improvement in football and basketball income at $1.1 million and $829,000, respectively. Both those projections, however, are below 2019’s budget of $1.3 million and $1.2 million, respectively.
Like the other campuses, UNI is committing to reinstate pay cuts implemented last year due to COVID-19.
“Team operating budgets were also reinstated to their pre-cut levels,” according to UNI’s portion of the board report.
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