The pressure to win and win right away is evident in major college football. But when an athletic department finds itself in the situation like the one Tennessee does, the pressure can be even greater.
The Sports Business Journal released a startling article Monday about the enormous debt, which is more than $200 million, that Tennessee is dealing with right now.
Among the other eye-opening numbers in the piece include the $1.95 million UT currently has in reserves (that’s down from $30 million five years ago and currently ranks as the lowest in the SEC) coupled with the $21 million the athletic department spends annually in debt payments (about two-thirds of which come from the athletic department’s nearly $100 million budget).
You can check out the entire article HERE. It’s astonishing.
There are a lot of reasons why an athletic department would fall on such hard times, but the declining attendance numbers at 102,000-seat Neyland Stadium since the 2005 season coupled with the rising cost of season tickets for a poor on-the-field product would be a good place to start.
“We’ve got to get football healthy,” Vols athletic director Dave Hart told the SBJ.
Tennessee has finished with five wins in four of the past eight years and have never won any more than nine games in a regular season since back-to-back years in 2006 and 2007 under Phillip Fulmer. Since 2005, attendance at UT home football games have gone down an average of about 12,600 fans while season ticket prices have gone up an average of roughly $70 since 2008. There have been three different head football coaches in that span: Fulmer, Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley.
Now, the Vols have former Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. Though he didn’t have the name recognition of, say, Jon Gruden when he was hired by Tennessee last month, Jones has been successful at Cincinnati and Central Michigan. Personally, I thought that anyone who hired Jones would be getting a getting a tremendous coach.
But the pressure on Jones to win is heightened when you put it into context of Tennessee’s financial woes. In addition to the money the athletic department is moving around just to stabilize itself, the school is expected to pay Jones just under $3 million a year as part of a six-year contract. That’s not an absurd amount of money, but it’s not dirt cheap either. Consider that Tennessee has spent $11.4 million in buyouts for fired coaches recently and that does not include the reportedly $7 million that’s owed to recently fired Dooley and his assistants.
If Tennessee fires Jones before Feb 28, 2014, the buyout would be $4 million. Dooley’s was $5 million.
I don’t foresee that being an issue as I believe Jones will have a lot of success with Tennessee. But if he doesn’t, the result could even costlier to Tennessee.