By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Football’s impact on the entire athletic program cannot be overstated at Clemson University. Revenue projections of $72.5 million in 2014 vaulted past the record $63.6 million projected for 2013, according to a summary of the budgets provided to The Clemson Insider.
Largely as a result of near-record ticket sales, a larger share of the ACC pie from its new TV contract and generosity of its donors, athletics is on solid financial footing. Based on a survey last year by USA Today, Clemson was 37th nationally in athletic revenue and continued to be one of the 23 NCAA Division I programs to turn a profit.
Season ticket sales for football have shot past projection, said Graham Neff, associate athletic director for business operations. Two weeks before the opening game, Neff said, Clemson has sold approximately 52,000 season tickets plus all available tickets in the Kickoff Package which included the Georgia and S.C. State game.
Football attendance ranked 13th nationally in 2012 with 569,998, an average 81,427 per game and 101 percent capacity.
“What we budgeted for season ticket sales, we have very much surpassed that by about 2,000 tickets sold,” Neff said. “We’re almost reached our budget right now. Any single game ticket sold from here on out is going to be above the budget number. We were pretty conservative from last year.
“We’re already passed that and we should be in good shape.”
The ACC in March 2012 announced a retooled TV contract with ESPN that would result in $17 million annually to each member through 2026-27. The agreement was struck after the league added Pittsburgh and Syracuse as members. Bowl and NCAA postseason revenue in basketball, much smaller in scope, were not calculated for 2014. Clemson anticipates nearly receiving slightly less than $16 million this year including all sources.
Neff provided summaries of athletic department and IPTAY revenue and expense projections for 2013 and 2014 plus an accounting of the Clemson Athletic Facilities quasi-trust.
The two largest expenses in athletics –personnel ($30.3 million) and scholarships (approximately $8 million) – account for more than half the budget, but that’s common among Division I programs.
IPTAY anticipated finishing 2013 with $20.2 million in contributions. It set a goal of $21 million for 2014. Principally for athletic scholarships and facilities upgrades, IPTAY contributions are to increase by about $5 million to $18 in 2014 to help complete projects like football’s indoor practice facility and upgrades to the suites and boxes at Memorial Stadium including the relocation of the president’s box and a new athletic director’s box.
“We’re obviously filtering out some of the projects that IPTAY committed to, particularly the indoor football facility. There are some other projects going on at the baseball stadium, the field renovation, IPTAY is paying for all of that.”
The endowment fund shows a projected balance of $33 million. That money has largely, if not entirely, been earmarked for specific projects. Athletic director Dan Radakovich believes conditions for taking on debt should be wise at least through next year with historically low interest rates and a favorable bond market. His first major project would be a new basketball arena.
“Going forward that process is going to change a little bit as we look to take on some debt and do some debt service payment,” Neff explained. “IPTAY is going to start to pay a portion of that debt service.
“Now they’re going to partner with the athletic department to pay for a lot of these new projects coming on board.”
By taking on debt, the timetable for starting projects can be accelerated. Neff said it reflects the department’s confidence that football can continue to be the bell cow for athletics at Clemson, attracting healthy revenue streams through its affiliation with the ACC and the generosity of its donors.
“From a modeling standpoint we are being very conservative in relying on those simply because of the reserves we have,” he said.