Economic Challenges for College Athletics in North Carolina

Major colleges in the state of North Carolina are scaling back expenses in its athletic programs as a result of the current recession and the escalating costs to participate in college sports. The Charlotte Observer reported that Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University are all considering cutting travel costs, making administrative adjustments, and asking the NCAA to make changes all in an effort to save money.

The article noted that athletic programs at these programs operate largely without taxpayers’ dollars with revenue primarily from ticket sales, television contracts, postseason funds, advertising and concessions. However, the national economic downturn has reduced the potential amount of revenue, despite the athletic success of football and basketball at the three institutions. According to the Observer, about a third of Carolina’s $61.4 million operating budget in 2008-09 came from football and basketball ticket sales and about 47 percent of State’s $36.1 million (which doesn’t include $7 million in scholarship money from the Wolfpack Club) also came from ticket sales. The revenue from ticket sales is a significant concern as families consider cutting back on expenses due to their own financial stresses from the economic recession.

Changes in travel include busing instead of flying to athletic contests and also scheduling contests closer to home. The University of North Carolina is considering forced days off work for all employees, including athletic employees — a policy already implemented at Arizona State University and Clemson University. The Atlantic Coast Conference is also asking the NCAA to eliminate regional qualifying for track meets, lower staffing limits in some sports, and call for an early signing date in football .

Lee Fowler, athletic director at North Carolina State University, told the paper: “All ADs across the country are looking for ways to cut back, because there’s no question the revenue will drop, I think sizably,” said Fowler. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re being prudent in what we’re doing.”