UConn was bad at football in 2018. The Huskies had one of the worst defenses in major college football history and finished 130th out of 130 FBS teams in S&P+. But a new report paints an even grimmer picture about the broader athletic department.
The university’s 2018 report to the NCAA on its financial situation is full of bad news. The athletic department brought in $40.4 million in revenue, but incurred a whopping $80.9 million in expenses. It needed more than $30 million in “additional institutional support” and more than $8.5 million in student fees. That’s all per the Hartford Courant.
The math in these reports can be a little fuzzy, but the fundamentals here are hard to ignore. UConn’s athletic department doesn’t sell enough tickets or make enough from TV, conference distributions, licenses, and so forth to come close to sustaining its costs.
It’s tough to see how UConn’s finances get fixed in the near future. It’s also hard to see how the football team contends.
The Huskies’ AAC is approaching a new TV deal that should bring more money every year. But optimistically, that’s an increase of $4-6 million per year, and it might come with giving up any chance to join a power conference in the near future.
The football team is still playing home games 22 miles from campus. While the Huskies have literally nowhere to go but up, they’re years away from contention. Their ceiling might be low, too. UConn’s only major bowl appearance since 2000 was a fluky Fiesta Bowl appearance as a four-loss team after 2010, due to the Big East’s BCS auto-bid. That team lost by four touchdowns to Oklahoma and lost money making the trip.
The program’s never won double-digit games or finished in the AP Top 25. Heck, since 2000, UConn’s cracked the top 60 in S&P+ three times and never finished higher than 36th. Its average finish has been 85th, and it’s been 112th since the move to the AAC.
In the AAC, UConn’s recruiting has tanked so badly that Harvard has a better 2019 class. In a region with few three-stars, let alone blue-chips, how much better is UConn going to get? Is it worth this much debt if a good season means, oh, 7-5 and a trip to the Birmingham Bowl?
Even UConn recognizes it can’t continue like this.
The football team itself lost $8.7 million in 2018, thanks in part to a a $1.1 million decline in ticket revenue. Money is so tight that Randy Edsall paid out of his own pocket to give his offensive coordinator a raise. Men’s and women’s basketball, the school’s flagship programs, also lost millions apiece.