While broadcast rights have proven lucrative for UNC’s athletic department, its coaches’ salaries are soaking up much of that revenue.
This year’s proposed athletic budget expects $75.4 million in revenue and calls for $75.2 million in spending, with both categories climbing by $2.7 million from last year. The increase in salary and benefits spending alone equals the amount of new inflows.
The changes in spending, which Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said will focus more on coaches and athletes, are part of a shift in philosophy.
“When you do a reallocation, it’s based on your priorities, and that’s what we did,” he said.
Media rights drive up revenue
Television and radio rights to broadcast UNC games, at $16.6 million in revenue, account for 7.9 percent more cash than last year.
“That’s the biggest driver, TV,” said Martina Ballen, chief financial officer for the department.
Another big revenue boost came from a category labeled “other,” which includes things like Rams Club donations and sponsorships.
Student fees, at $7.1 million, account for 9.4 percent of the department’s revenue and did not change this year.
The department requested a $100 per student athletic fee increase last year. The proposition was lowered to $45 before being rejected by the student fee advisory subcommittee.
New dollars spent unequally
The “salary and benefits” section of the proposed budget, its largest category, increased by $2.7 million to $26 million this year — an 11.7 percent jump.
“First and foremost, we have this personnel expense,” Ballen said. “Then we have all of these other things. We start looking at all of it and say, ‘Do we have enough revenue to cover all of this?’”
Cunningham’s base salary is $525,000, which is $230,000 more in base compensation per year than his predecessor Dick Baddour.
Baddour ended his 14-year tenure as athletic director after an NCAA investigation into the football program found academic and impermissible benefit rules violations that cost the team a postseason appearance this year and scholarship reductions.
Lower-level employees will receive $1 million as part of a 1.2 percent state employee pay raise approved by the N.C. General Assembly, the first in four years.
Nearly $1.8 million of the salary increase — two-thirds — is going directly to coaches through contractually obligated increases and benefit bumps.
Department spokesman Steve Kirschner said in an email that UNC must continue to pay former football coach Butch Davis a contractually obligated $590,000 per year for the next three years. Davis was fired in July of last year as a result of the scandal, and the University is still paying him as part of a buyout.
New head football coach Larry Fedora’s contract calls for a base salary of $350,000 and $1.35 million in “supplemental compensation.” And when Fedora and other coaches do well, Cunningham said he tries to boost their pay.
“If we had an extraordinary season, I tried to reward them above and beyond the 1.2 percent,” he said.
The growth in spending on salaries means cuts for other parts of the program.
Though not all of the reductions were a direct result of spending increases, the department spent $2 million less on things like administration, facilities, academic support and debt service.
In these parts of the department, Ballen said officials are looking to save money by asking facilities managers to cut off lights and by leaving unfilled positions empty.
“I had an employee take a position with the University of Miami,” she said. “That’s a position that’s not getting filled.”
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