The University of Wisconsin Athletic Board unanimously approved a reduced athletics budget for the 2009-10 academic year Friday but opted to maintain current ticket prices.
The board approved a spending authority of $88.8 million, $323,500 less than the current one, with $83.3 million going specifically to athletics. The remaining amount will be allocated to University Ridge Golf Course and various camps and clinics.
“This may be the most strict budget that’s come out recently, but it’s been a goal of this department financially to keep things under control,” said Finance Committee Chair Philip Brown.
Brown presented the 2009-10 budget, which includes initiatives to hold salary increase requests, freeze operational expense budgets for teams, reduce department operational budgets and reduce spending on capital projects.
The budget also provides for no ticket price increases, which will allow UW to maintain its position in the bottom half of the Big Ten Conference for ticket pricing.
“The price of tickets is set at a value that allows them to operate, not what they could probably ask for on the open market,” Brown said. “That’s something I guess we can be proud of.”
UW’s 23 sports teams were also asked to reduce spending, and Brown said 17 were successful. Six increased spending due to previous agreements such as the football team’s planned trip to Hawaii.
Athletic Director Barry Alvarez said the department has already made cuts in its operational budget to save over $1 million. Plans are also in the works to reduce the cost of capital projects by at least 50 percent.
Alvarez added the economic downturn will cause a much more noticeable effect on college athletics in the coming years.
“It’s real. It’s hitting people, and different schools are approaching it differently,” Alvarez said. “The face of college football and all of the things we see, a lot of things are going to be changed dramatically.”
Alvarez said a potential decrease in the number of games played by Big Ten Conference football teams will be discussed in a series of meetings scheduled this week, although those changes would not be put in place for next year.
Athletic Board Chair Walter Dickey said UW’s commitment to a broad range of sports also affects how the budget will influence individual teams.
“When you look around the country, to my surprise, you find a lot of big schools that we would think ourselves to be comparable academically who don’t support as many sports as we do and can — in effect — devote more money to fewer sports,” Dickey said. “We’ve made a commitment to a wider range of sports.”
Mark Covaleski, a member of the Finance Committee, expressed confidence in the 2009-10 budget.
“It was a very impressive presentation,” Covaleski said. “There’s no doomsday plan built in, but it is … as solid and conservative as can be in today’s time. Coming out of it with all the uncertainty of the future, the board should feel comfortable endorsing this.”