WSU Athletics on track for record deficit

WSU Athletics on track for record deficit

THE WASHINGTON STATE Athletic Department reduced its annual operating deficit by more than $2 million during the past fiscal year, but athletic director Bill Moos said Thursday he anticipates a record deficit that may exceed $10 million for the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

But Bill Moos also said he expects increased television revenue will help reduce the deficit in 2015 and 2016 before the Cougars turn a profit in 2017.

Moos said approximately $8 million of the projected losses for fiscal year 2014 will result from bond payments kicking in for 2012 improvements to football's Martin Stadium and construction of the football operations building.

The latter facility is due to open this summer. Such facilities are common at top football schools, but WSU has never had one.

"That facility is a game changer as far as attracting talent," Moos said.

The Cougars lost a record $6,624,951 in fiscal year 2012 (which ended June 30 of that year), then lost $4.474,009 – the second most in school history -- in the past fiscal year. Most colleges lose money on athletics, but the Cougars turned a profit eight straight years before losing money the past five years.

Moos was hired as athletic director in April 2010. He has overseen major improvements to facilities he deemed inferior for a Pac-12 Conference school. He also has dramatically increased coaching salaries, citing the need to be competitive with rivals.

"I feel extremely fiscally on top of things," Moos said. He praised Matt Kleffner, hired as the athletic department's chief financial officer last April, for "tremendous" work.

Moos noted that the school's financial support of athletics was reduced from $2.8 million to $339,000 during the past fiscal year. Pac-12 schools each received $2 million more from the conference than had been anticipated, Moos said, when school presidents and chancellors voted to release funds that had been saved.

Moos said Cougars lost $250,000 on their trip to the New Mexico Bowl last month.

"I think that's a good investment for a program that hadn't been to a bowl game in 10 years," Moos said.

Kleffner said the Cougars had to pay an estimated $20,000-25,000 for failing to sell all 5,000 allotted tickets. Most schools lose money on trips to "minor" bowls like the one in New Mexico, but bowl games often generate increased fan interest, and teams value the additional practice time.

Moos is presently seeking money to build a baseball clubhouse and a new indoor football facility (which might also be used for track and field). Moos said the indoor facility would cost an estimated $23 million-$25 million and possibly open as soon as the 2015 football season.

Moos said he expects operating expenses to rise from a record $50.2 million during the past fiscal year to $60 million in fiscal year 2014. Moos said he foresees Cougar Athletic Fund donations and membership numbers setting records for the third consecutive year.

Moos said the Cougars hope to raise $30 million (albeit not all this year) through various naming rights opportunities for the football operations building.

He also hopes to sell naming rights for the indoor football facility, baseball clubhouse and soccer field. He said he is not selling naming rights to Martin Stadium, the Beasley Coliseum basketball arena or the Bailey-Brayton Field baseball stadium.

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