A recent article published by the Arizona Daily Wildcat noted the concerns from the University of Arizona athletic department about the costs it may take to replace long-time men’s basketball coaching legend Lute Olson. Olson’s $737,790 salary, while the highest among all publicly paid employees in the state of Arizona, is lower than for coaches at many other successful basketball coaches at other major public universities. The article noted that the UA athletics department is one of the few in the nation that netted a profit in 2008, of $3.03 million: earning $46.99 million in total income with $43.96 million in expenses. And, between 2003-2007, the UA basketball program only trailed the University of Louisville in net revenue generated over that 4-year span. Yet, the impact of the national economic recession on ticket sales in football and basketball, and other donation sources are leading to concerns for the UA athletics program over how it will afford to pay the perceived market value for a high-caliber men’s basketball coach.
“I don’t know that we’re recession-proof at all,” said UA athletic director Jim Livengood. “Whether it’s capital fundraising or fundraising based on our day-to-day operating expenses, most of that comes from people that could have investments in the stock market … I look at the stock market more times a day than I’d like to share.”
Darren Rovell, sports commentator for CNBC.com, told the paper: “Sports are recession resistant, but not recession proof. Colleges are not only going to have to figure out the ticket price, but really what’s the required donation everywhere. They have to reset the basketball arena and the football stadium.”