Yes, it comes with a caveat or two. Revenues for the year are not all in, nor are expenses. The biggest variable is what happens the rest of this month and next in regard to football season ticket renewals and Mountaineer Athletic Club donations. Those could tilt the scales.
"A lot of it does depend on May and June,'' Luck said. "Those [sales and contributions] could be up or down. But historically, if you look at the numbers, there's a fairly narrow range where those fluctuate.''
Here's the thing, though: Even if the numbers do fluctuate, and even if it is significant in the wrong direction, what's that going to mean? Maybe a loss of a few hundred thousand? A million even?
Didn't you expect it to be much worse in light of last year's loss? There was a full year of travel in the Big 12. Coaching salaries - especially those of football coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff - increased significantly. The department's debt to its own university - in the form of internal loans for capital projects, not operating expenses - is now up to $30 million.
I know I wouldn't have been surprised to see another multi-million dollar splotch of red ink.
Why it won't happen is at once both simple and fairly complicated. The simple part is this: Last year the department got nothing in revenue sharing from the Big East, instead returning its nearly $10 million slice of the pie to the Big East as part of a $20 million exit fee. This year, the school stands to receive anywhere from $11 million to $13 million as its 50 percent share of revenue disbursements from the Big 12.
Voila, an extra $13 million that would have essentially wiped out last year's debt.
Yes, it's a bit more complicated than that. Last year, for example, the department's huge deficit included non-cash items like depreciation on its buildings (to the tune of almost $7 million) and a government accounting change regarding employee benefits that came in at over $1 million. This year, there are the significant added travel costs and salary bumps.
But the reality is that all of those things -and more that we won't get into - will pretty much balance out. So perhaps the simple answer is the right one: The department lost almost $13 million last year and will get a similar sum from the Big 12 this year.
Thus a balance sheet that shows virtually no loss.
That, however, still doesn't explain Luck's insistence on looking at the bigger picture - perhaps a five-year profit/loss window rather than just one year. After all, there will still be losses this year and probably next. There are the deficits to recover from and the loans to repay, which will be done over several years. The school has to begin repaying $5 million to the Big 12 in 2016.
But as Luck is quick to point out, the $30 million in loans the department has outstanding ranks it well below the other public schools in the Big 12 in that regard. So even with the hit taken last year, the department is still not in bad shape.
"When you look at it over the mid-term, say five years, it's probably all going to break even,'' he said. "But remember, we're also guaranteed this revenue stream for 12 years [the length of the grant-of-rights that binds the Big 12 schools together, along with the television contracts that mirror it]. So when you look at the long term, I think you have to feel it's a great situation.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.