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Why does the CU Athletic Department always struggle financially? What can be done?

Bliff Cranch

Should be in the Fall of Hame
The long-arc of demographic change in the state. Apathy from the electorate. Unrealistic, inflated academic self-image from key members of the administration. Antiquated method for staffing the BOR. Lack of ultra-wealthy alumni. Moderately wealthy alumni unwilling to invest in a terrible product.

Solutions are difficult but include attempting to change the way BOR is staffed (appoint versus elect), hire a president who recognizes the importance of mutuality between academics and athletics to build a positive image for the university, have that president fire DiStefano, fire Rick George, and ultimately replace Dorrell with an up and coming G5 coaching staff (like Sean Lewis at Kent State or equivalent), expect a 4-6 year rebuild.
 

CU IT guy

Well-Known Member
Utah was a premier G5 program coming off three straight seasons of 13-0, 10-3, and 10-3 when they entered the Pac 12, had extreme coaching stability, and they went from G5 $$$ to P5 $$$ on top of it.

CU, otoh, was coming off 5 disastrous and talent draining seasons of Dan Hawkins when they joined the Pac 12, and parlayed that by hiring Jon Embree as the first CU HC in the Pac 12 era. The talent was depleted, and we entered the premier “speed conference” at the time, when the Cu program had zero team speed.

In no way, shape or form were Utah and CU in the same shape when they joined the Pac 12. There couldn’t have been a worse time for CU to join the conference for a number of reasons. The money was better initially, but quickly became worse relative to other P5 conferences. I maintain that the timing of the move is one of the seminal events that led to this program being in its current shape.
Funny because I don't recall them being 'premier' program at all, but facts are facts. I stand corrected on the W/L record but it's clear they are doing things much better all around over that time frame than we have.
 

Bliff Cranch

Should be in the Fall of Hame
Utah was a premier G5 program coming off three straight seasons of 13-0, 10-3, and 10-3 when they entered the Pac 12, had extreme coaching stability, and they went from G5 $$$ to P5 $$$ on top of it.

CU, otoh, was coming off 5 disastrous and talent draining seasons of Dan Hawkins when they joined the Pac 12, and parlayed that by hiring Jon Embree as the first CU HC in the Pac 12 era. The talent was depleted, and we entered the premier “speed conference” at the time, when the Cu program had zero team speed.

In no way, shape or form were Utah and CU in the same shape when they joined the Pac 12. There couldn’t have been a worse time for CU to join the conference for a number of reasons. The money was better initially, but quickly became worse relative to other P5 conferences. I maintain that the timing of the move is one of the seminal events that led to this program being in its current shape.
Imagine the fortune of going from Urban Meyer to Kyle Whittingham over the past 20 years.
 

The Alabaster Yak

Club Member
Club Member
CU needs to think outside the box.

1. Make the athletic department or football program a separate entity from the university, but pay the university for the naming and logo rights. This is actually something I read recently that some feel is going to happen in the not too distant future anyways.

2. Go get some VC and/or PE money for a large cash infusion to get the stadium/facility renos, coaching salaries and recruiting resources on par with the top programs, in return for an agreed upon revenue share.

Since traditionally, the incentive for big money donors to give money to CFB programs is mostly about helping build a winner, but with no monetary ROI, those individuals have to have some kind of emotional or fan attachment to the program. I think a program like CU, that has no BMDs, has to step up and try a different approach where it becomes a pure investment opportunity with actual ROI for investors.

Disclaimer: This post started as somewhat of a joke, but the more I thought about it, I don't know why this wouldn't be an actual possibility.
 

The Alabaster Yak

Club Member
Club Member
Funny because I don't recall them being 'premier' program at all, but facts are facts. I stand corrected on the W/L record but it's clear they are doing things much better all around over that time frame than we have.
The 8 years leading up to them joining the conference, Utah averaged 10 wins/season, with five 10+ win seasons, won 2 BCS bowls (Fiesta and Sugar) and went 7-1 overall in bowl games. You probably don't think of them as a premier G5 program because Boise State was in the same conference and was averaging almost 12 wins/seasons.
 

CU IT guy

Well-Known Member
The 8 years leading up to them joining the conference, Utah averaged 10 wins/season, with five 10+ win seasons, won 2 BCS bowls (Fiesta and Sugar) and went 7-1 overall in bowl games. You probably don't think of them as a premier G5 program because Boise State was in the same conference and was averaging almost 12 wins/seasons.
I think you're right, it could have been perception due to previous conference affiliation. It does really underscore just how bad CU has failed since joining.

Seems like we just can't compete in the PAC12....financially, academically, and athletically just not happening....ugh.
 

CU IT guy

Well-Known Member
So I was curious, had a few minutes to look at Utah's financials vs CUs. One thing immediately stands out. CU only spent around 800k on recruiting....to Utah's almost 1.5M. Now, granted, Utah has a more diverse sport offering (20 teams vs 17) but man year over year that disparity is going to hurt you.

Oregon, just dwarfs us on total revenue....but their recruiting spend is right with Utah - $1.4M.

Where is this mystical 'commitment' to recruiting exactly? A very rudimentary financial analysis doesn't show that.
 

Darth Snow

Hawaiian Buffalo
Club Member
Junta Member
CU's AD (and CU in general) suck at outreach. I get more contact from my high school than I get from CU.

They also don't take advantage of the resources available to them, even if it's a sunk cost. For instance, why isn't the CU AD reaching out to graduates in their system who, as far as they know, have never attended a game or have only attended a few and offering discounted/free tickets and/or a free beer and hotdog at a football/basketball/volleyball game? 90% of football games have availability. Budget 200 seats in Folsom (hell, in the Keg) for most games and just cycle through a phone list until they are full. If you get 5% of those people coming back, you have a successful program.

Offer one free ticket to a basketball season ticket holder per year for an early season game. Or whatever.

DO SOMETHING instead of sitting on your hands.
 
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NW Buff

Club Member
Club Member
CU's AD (and CU in general) suck at outreach. I get more contact from my high school than I get from CU.

They also don't take advantage of the resources available to them, even if it's a sunk cost. For instance, why isn't the CU AD reaching out to graduates in their system who, as far as they know, have never attended a game or have only attended a few and offering discounted/free tickets and/or a free beer and hotdog at a football/basketball/volleyball game? 90% of football games have availability. Budget 200 seats in Folsom (hell, in the Keg) for most games and just cycle through a phone list until they are full. If you get 5% of those people coming back, you have a successful program.

Offer one free ticket to a basketball season ticket holder per year for an early season game. Or whatever.

DO SOMETHING instead of sitting on your hands.
Really? The engineering school is very persistent contacting me for donations.
 

Creebuzz

Survives on seaweed and Natty Boh.
Club Member
Some thoughts:

  • Somewhat of a false narrative in the OP, as Berkeley and WSU have had even more financial problems than CU. Arizona and Oregon State fan bases regularly express frustration about their respective budgets.
  • Blaming out of state students seems to be provincial thinking. CU milks us. A lot. Are weekly calls and letters predatory? Haha. I’d love to see a breakdown of donations by in state versus out of state students. The largest donor to CU football ever is Kelli Brooks who didn’t even attend CU and lives in L.A.
  • I’d love to see a balance sheet and detailed income statement from CU and several other athletic departments around the country. That would tell you where the money is coming from, and where CUs deficiencies lie. Obviously the TV money is one area of deficiency. Is overall donations lower than average? Does CU spend more? I don’t know these answers without seeing the statements compared to other places.
  • For years I’ve heard CU charges the CU AD the out of state tuition cost for each scholarship athlete. I have no idea if that’s true. It could be complete B.S. However, if true, at minimum, that’s a $20,000 per year difference from in state tuition, probably higher. Let’s say the AD has 100 scholarships per year to fund, well that’s $2,000,000 annually (100 x $20,000 cost above in state tuition =$2,000,000). That’s not nothing.
  • Lack of major donors is a problem. I speculate that some of that may be a cultural issue. First, a lot of wealthy alumni could donate, but just don’t care about athletics. They didn’t care when they were at CU, especially don’t care now. Also, when you look at universities in Florida, they get major gifts from people not otherwise affiliated with the university, like CU received with Anschutz. The CU AD hardly ever snags big gifts because the culture in Colorado doesn’t deem it to be a worthwhile gift. CU doesn’t seem to connect well with recent arrivals to Colorado. Hell, CU doesn’t connect with its natives. I’ve heard comments from locals. They talk a lot of **** about Boulder. Florida people do not bash on the University of Florida. Everyone thinks it’s a great school whether they went there or not.
  • The Board of Regents are overly political and grandstand, like voting against coaching contracts for no reason. Most of the board of regents is now composed of a bunch of lifelong educators. I like educators, but exactly the wrong composition that you want from the board since you already grab those skills and experiences from management.
  • The CU administration is entrenched, and possibly out of ideas and lazy. Some stability is very good. No job movement at all in certain key positions for three decades not so good. I don’t know if this true, but I hear whispers and the feeling I get is a lot of staff hit cruise control a long, long time ago.
My sense is that there is a combination of all of these factors, and others we don’t know about.
 
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Fogo

Well-Known Member
You are on to something with the lack of major donors. Also minor donors, but not insignificant when you add it all up. I don't donate to CU anymore, and I used to write a pretty decent check every year. Why? The University, the city of Boulder, hell even many of you on AllBuffs tell me my values and beliefs are bad. I'm not alone in stopping my donations for this reason, I just donate to organizations that share my values. It's pretty simple.

And no, I didn't vote for Trump.
 

Buffnik

Real name isn't Nik
Club Member
Junta Member
You are on to something with the lack of major donors. Also minor donors, but not insignificant when you add it all up. I don't donate to CU anymore, and I used to write a pretty decent check every year. Why? The University, the city of Boulder, hell even many of you on AllBuffs tell me my values and beliefs are bad. I'm not alone in stopping my donations for this reason, I just donate to organizations that share my values. It's pretty simple.

And no, I didn't vote for Trump.
That's an interesting thing to bring up. While it wouldn't be the top driver and the funding problem goes back decades, our society has become much more polarized politically in the decades since the advent of competing cable news networks & even worse since social media. That impacts a lot of our buying & giving decisions. I hadn't really considered that. Thanks. Good post.
 

manhattanbuff

Club Member
Club Member
So I was curious, had a few minutes to look at Utah's financials vs CUs. One thing immediately stands out. CU only spent around 800k on recruiting....to Utah's almost 1.5M. Now, granted, Utah has a more diverse sport offering (20 teams vs 17) but man year over year that disparity is going to hurt you.

Oregon, just dwarfs us on total revenue....but their recruiting spend is right with Utah - $1.4M.

Where is this mystical 'commitment' to recruiting exactly? A very rudimentary financial analysis doesn't show that.
That’s the entirety of our frustration for the Dorrell hire since day one: it was proof that RG stopped caring about allocating the resources to recruit properly.
 

DBT

Club Member
Club Member
Might as well put this here. The BoR named a 16 person search committee and hired a consultant, Storbeck Search, to find CU’s next President. I didn’t recognize any of the names on the committee.

CU President Search
 

The Alabaster Yak

Club Member
Club Member
Might as well put this here. The BoR named a 16 person search committee and hired a consultant, Storbeck Search, to find CU’s next President. I didn’t recognize any of the names on the committee.
Leslie Smith and Sue Sharky from the BOR are Chair and Vice Chair of the committee
 

DBT

Club Member
Club Member
I don’t see that blaming the AD’s financial issues on TABOR makes any sense. Financially, the AD is a self-supporting enterprise within the university. If the AD budget was a line-item in the state budget or a CU budget request to the legislature, I don’t see any way that the General Assembly would ever give taxpayer dollars to the AD. Millions of taxpayer dollars for a head coach? The angry speeches on the floor of the state house would write themselves, and I (a diehard CU fan) would agree with every word of it. The AD needs to pay for itself through media revenue, ticket sales, donations, and ancillary revenue like product licensing. TABOR, or a lack of state funding for higher education, has nothing to do with it. Instead of adding baseball, I’d personally be happy for CU to rid itself of every non-revenue generating varsity sport that it can while staying within Title IX, but that’s not going to happen, just like baseball is not going to happen.

I often see comments on AllBuffs to the effect that CU‘s administrators just don’t care enough about success in athletics to give it the financial resources it needs to thrive. Again, the AD should pay for itself, and if it can’t, well, it can’t. And do we really want to spend the insane amounts of money that the coaching arms race is currently seeing? Like 80 million over 10 years for Franklin at Penn State, or 90 million for Tucker? Even if It was the only way to have success, I would rather CU stay out of that arms race. Heck, I think that the money CU pays to HCKD is insane, not just for him in particular, but for any coach in general, anywhere. I’d personally rather see CU relegated to some second-tier status than try to keep up with that. Football is great. Athletics are important. But not that kind of money great and important.
CU has the minimum number of sports allowed by the NCAA to remain a D-1 program. We can’t cut any more.
 
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CULifer

Well-Known Member
CU needs to think outside the box.

1. Make the athletic department or football program a separate entity from the university, but pay the university for the naming and logo rights. This is actually something I read recently that some feel is going to happen in the not too distant future anyways.

2. Go get some VC and/or PE money for a large cash infusion to get the stadium/facility renos, coaching salaries and recruiting resources on par with the top programs, in return for an agreed upon revenue share.

Since traditionally, the incentive for big money donors to give money to CFB programs is mostly about helping build a winner, but with no monetary ROI, those individuals have to have some kind of emotional or fan attachment to the program. I think a program like CU, that has no BMDs, has to step up and try a different approach where it becomes a pure investment opportunity with actual ROI for investors.

Disclaimer: This post started as somewhat of a joke, but the more I thought about it, I don't know why this wouldn't be an actual possibility.
For sho, let's just got moneyball with the whole thing.
 

AeroBuff99

Club Member
Club Member
I follow him on twitter. His dad is a prominent climate scientist at CIRES. He has been primarily in climate studies, mostly known lately for critiquing the politicizing and misuse of data in climate science. From what I can tell he is not a climate denier, but what I would call a realist, somebody who forces you to actually use the data the way data should be used. The last several years he also taught classes in sports governance at CU and knows his stuff. His BA is in math, masters in public policy, and PhD in political science.
 
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