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Luck says WVU athletic department will break even

By Dave Hickman, Staff writer
Luck

MORGANTOWN — Two years ago, the West Virginia athletic department’s bottom line was met with outrage in some quarters. And why not, given that the department showed a loss for the fiscal year of $12.9 million?

A year later, there was relative celebration when the numbers bounced back and the department showed a $4.2 million profit.

This year? Well, call it a wash.

The fiscal year doesn’t end for another 10 days, but judging by the most recent estimates on hand, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck expects his department to essentially break even.

“The last time we really took a look at it, around the end of the school year in mid-May, we were projecting a very modest, almost inconsequential surplus,’’ Luck said. “We’re going to be right around [the break-even] point.’’

Two years ago, when West Virginia left the Big East Conference for the Big 12, Luck admitted that times would be tough for a few years. The $12.9 million deficit in 2011-12 was the bottom, most of that loss thanks to the $20 million exit agreement with the Big East.

But if the preliminary numbers for this year hold true, it means that the department is already functioning with its head above financial water, with conditions sure to improve in the coming years. The school has managed to operate in the black despite getting only a partial share of Big 12 revenue sharing.

Last year’s check from the Big 12 was around $10 million, a 50 percent share. With the percentage up to 67 percent, this year the number was just under $14 million. Next year the percentage goes to 84 percent, then to 100 percent in 2015-16. With league revenue increasing through built-in raises in television contracts, that 100-percent share could be nearly twice this year’s 67-percent share.

That guaranteed money from the Big 12 — as well as from the school’s contract with IMG College — has been enough to allow the department to launch an ambitious facilities plan. The school announced earlier this spring a plan to spend $106 million on renovations.

“I think we’re in a pretty good spot,’’ Luck said. “You’re always concerned about [Mountaineer Athletic Club] donations and ticket sales because they fluctuate. But the guaranteed income from IMG and [Big 12] television puts us in good shape and we think we have a pretty good handle on costs.

“We’re certainly in a better spot than we would have been in had we remained in the Big East.’’

What the actual bottom line will be this year remains to be seen, of course. A year ago Luck also projected a modest profit, perhaps in the $50,000 range. Then when the final numbers were tallied, MAC contributions had risen and that and other factors led to the $4.2 million surplus.

Not that it’s really a surplus, of course.

“The fact is, a lot of it is bookkeeping and where you put the money,’’ Luck said. “That’s the hardest thing for some people to understand. When we had the $12 million deficit and then when we had a $4 million surplus, a lot of it is just paper.

“For instance, our biggest challenge is that we can’t take depreciation. That’s affects the numbers greatly.’’

Indeed, the accumulated depreciation on facilities could reach close to $60 million. In recent years the number has risen between $5 million and nearly $7 million per year.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.


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