Maine Athletics Loses Money While Instructional Support Drops

The Maine Campus reported that the University of Maine athletics department is projected to report a loss of $7.3 million in the fiscal year 2009-2010. In the article, the cost of athletics was put into contrast with the spending for instructional support, which has steadily decreased over time. The paper noted that the institution allocated 28.3 percent of its budget in fiscal 1987 for instructional support, down to 22.7 percent of its budget last year; over that same period, spending on research has increased 5 percent.

The budget for fiscal 2010 projected the University of Maine athletics department would generate about $4.5 million in revenue, with $12.2 million in expenditures. The difference would be covered by revenue in the general university budget, primarily from tuition and state appropriations. If the projection proves accurate, the University of Maine is in the 25 percent of higher learning institutions that receives the largest percentage in university subsidies.

“We try to generate about half our own budget,” said athletics director Blake James. ” We generate somewhere in the $5 million range from ticket sales, the athletic store and multimedia. We want to maximize revenue as much as we can.” James added that the amount the athletics department brings in depends on how teams perform in the season.

The university’s priciest athletic program is the football team, which cost almost $1.2 million this year, according to the report for fiscal 2010. The men’s ice hockey team was budgeted about $900,000, while the women’s and men’s basketball teams are both projected to cost the university more than $500,000. Last year, the athletic department was forced to suspend the university’s volleyball and men’s soccer programs, and this year another $300,000 must be trimmed off next year’s budget by May.

“We’re not considering cutting any other sports,” James said. “Never say never, but I don’t see us cutting more teams.”

The bulk of sports teams’ operating costs comes from coaches’ salaries and benefits. James said budgeting for coaches’ salaries is troublesome because the athletic department must set the amount before it knows how much revenue the teams will bring in. James does not think the University of Maine coaches are overpaid.