STORRS, Conn. – UConn will not rule out eliminating some sports to close a gap of more than $ 40 million in the budget of its athletic department.
The director of athletics, David Benedict, who spoke before Saturday's men's basketball game with Tulane, said there is still a firm belief that UConn has become a nationally renowned university, in part because of its sporting success.
But he said the athletic division should examine how it is structured. He says UConn will look for all opportunities to increase revenue and cut expenses before considering the possibility of practicing a sport.
"There are many sports departments in recent years that have had to do that," said Benedict. "It's probably one of the most difficult things you can do as a sports director and sports department, we're going to see all the opportunities to try to deal with this before that, but sometimes there are inevitability."
In a NCAA financial report released on Thursday, UConn reported that total revenue generated by sports last year totaled $ 40.4 million, while expenses reached $ 80.9 million.
Football lost $ 8.7 million, men's basketball $ 5 million and women's basketball, a perennial power, had expenses that exceeded revenues by more than $ 3 million.
The school, with most of its athletic programs at the American Athletic Conference, struggles to compete fiscally with similar programs at the Power Five conferences that generate the most revenue: Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Pac-12.
The school reported receiving $ 7.1 million in conference distribution funds last year and another $ 1 million in media rights, down from the $ 7.3 million reported in 2017. By comparison, the average school distribution for the Conference Southeast was around $ 41 million and Big Ten schools reportedly received an average of about $ 38.5 million.
Benedict said he believes the new media rights contract for the AAC, which is currently being negotiated, could help the school "make a dent" in the budget gap.
Benedict also said he believes Friday's announcement of self-imposed sanctions in the basketball program, which includes the loss of a scholarship for next season, is an adequate response to the NCAA violations under former coach Kevin Ollie.
Those violations included Ollie lying about organizing video calls between recruits and the ex-greats of Husky, Ray Allen and Rudy Gay, having undue contact with recruits, providing inadmissible meals to recruits, shooting baskets with a recruit, performing inadequate training and providing free tickets to an athletic trainer who organized inappropriate training sessions both on campus and in Georgia, which amounted to gifts.
Ollie, who was fired after a 14-18 season last year, is challenging the school's decision to withhold more than $ 10 million as a result of being fired "for a cause." He has claimed that any violation was minimal and isolated. He has also alleged that his dismissal was partly motivated by racial motives, noting that the violations of former coach Jim Calhoun, who is white, did not lead to Calhoun's dismissal.
Benedict refused to comment on these accusations.
"This is certainly something we would prefer not to be dealing with right now, but we are going to handle it the best way we can and move forward," he said.
Benedict also defended the delivery of thousands of dollars in bonuses to the coach of the University of Connecticut football, Randy Edsall, and his staff despite the season 1-11, and said that the basic salaries of coaches are among the lowest of the conference and that has no problems to encourage performance.