Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke told reporters at a luncheon Wednesday that his department finished the 2020-21 fiscal year with a $26 million budget deficit.
Heeke noted that revenue was down about $45 million, mostly due to the loss of ticket sales and television revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of those losses were “mitigated in a number of ways.”
“Obviously reducing our expenses, reducing sport budgets, reducing administrative budgets, really trying to be very, very aware of our expenses across the board,” he said. “We certainly had to make some personnel moves that were incredibly difficult. We continue to hold the line and have a number of frozen positions and positions that we haven’t filled.”
The deficit would have been even greater if not for the athletic department raising $26 million in donations, about $8 million more than the previous year, Heeke said.
Arizona’s deficit is in line with other Power 5 programs such as South Carolina and Tennessee, which reported deficits of $27 million and $28 million, respectively, for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Oregon projects $55 million in losses.
“All things considered, I’m very proud of where we landed,” Heeke said. “I’m proud of what our staff did, how our coaches did, what they did to not impact the student-athletes’ experience. We have an obligation to the young people so that they can meet their educational and athletic goals, have the experience while they’re here, provide them the resources necessary to do that and we were able to do that very well. We didn’t have to impact them virtually in any way.”
Heeke said the UA athletic department also incurred about $10.5 million in coaching transition expenses in 2020-21, and will accumulate roughly $4.3 million more in the next fiscal year. That stems from the buyouts associated with firing former head football coach Kevin Sumlin and former head basketball coach Sean Miller.
Heeke said the UA will use bridge loan funding to navigate the deficit.
“The loans will be over a 15-year period for the payback (plus interest) and we fully intended and will strive to pay those off earlier, as we again begin to roll into opportunities to generate significantly more revenues with fans in the stands, naturally our growth of our television package from our conference,” he said. “All of those pieces will help us grow our revenues and likely address this deficit position through those years much sooner than the 15 years.”