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Here's How the Maryland Athletic Department is a Financial Disaster

Interesting story in the Washington Post this week: the Maryland athletic department is a wreck financially. As someone who has always followed Maryland since I grew up in nearby Northern Virginia, my initial thought was: the Terps went to back-to-back Final Fours in 2001 and 2002 (when they won a title), and the football team went to a BCS bowl game in 2002. How could this happen so quickly?

It seems like the success of those two teams a decade ago was used to try and boost some of the sports that don’t generate any revenue.

In April 2002, Maryland opened the $3 million Terrapin Softball Complex. A state-of-the-art facility built for the school’s field hockey and lacrosse teams debuted in 2003. Renovations on Ludwig Field, where the soccer teams play, were completed in 2006. Numerous renovations have been made to Shipley Field, home of the baseball team, within the past two years, and the Gossett Team House, headquarters of the football team, has been upgraded several times in the past decade as well.

Those moves were questionable, considering those sports only lose revenue. And then when you have the basketball and football teams hitting a brick wall – the hoops team hasn’t been to a Sweet 16 since 2003 – you have a recipe for disaster. Between the football team struggling (only three winning seasons in the last seven years) and the country’s economy going in the shitter, donor funds came to a screeching halt.

Additionally, according to financial reports, the athletic department lost more than $64 million from 2005 to 2010 on the 24 sports other than football and men’s and women’s basketball. The athletic department lost more than $13 million in the fiscal year 2009-10 — the most recent report available — on those 24 sports.

So what did the Terps do? They chose to sink $50 million into Byrd Stadium to add luxury suites and extra seats. Then, they shoved out their longtime football coach, Ralph Friedgen, and brought in Connecticut’s Randy Edsall. (Considering the tenuous shape of the financial department, clearly, Mike Leach would have been the smart hire to fill the seats and generate interest, regardless of how toxic he is and despite that lawsuit against ESPN.)

Then basketball coach Gary Williams surprisingly retired, and the school hired Mark Turgeon from Texas A&M. (That rebuilding project is going to take some time.)

So you’ve got a financially-strapped Maryland athletic department with its two cash cows reeling. Both hired new coaches. Neither is a postseason lock this upcoming season.

Clearly, it’s time these two programs started bending the rules. Did Bob Wade leave his playbook in College Park?

Alternative: you could just cut 10 of those sports that bring in no money.

The commission appointed by Loh this week could conclude that 27 varsity sports are too many to maintain under Maryland’s current financial conditions. Although Anderson said in a telephone interview July 9 that cutting sports is “not something that we’re looking at,” a member of the university’s Board of Regents, speaking on condition of anonymity, described such a move as “inevitable.”

Maryland athletic department’s revenue can’t keep pace with spending [Wash Post]

 

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