Subscribe for 33¢ / day

A larger than normal increase in what University of Wisconsin Athletics will pay for salaries and benefits drove the department to ask for an 8 percent increase in spending authority next year.

UW Athletics will seek approval from the Athletic Board on Friday of a 2018-19 fiscal year budget that has $143.5 million in expenses.

The details were unveiled Wednesday in a meeting of the board’s Finance, Facilities and Operations Committee. The body didn’t have a quorum present, so it was deemed an informational presentation.

Mario Morris, the associate athletic director for business operations, pointed toward expense growth for compensation, financial aid and major capital projects in the overall increase.

A climb of 3 to 5 percent in salaries and benefits is considered normal, he said. UW is looking at an increase of 11.6 percent in that category in 2018-19, to $59.1 million.

State employee salaries are set to climb 4 percent, and the UW Board of Regents last week approved modified contracts and additional compensation agreements with three football coaches and athletic director Barry Alvarez. Details on those new contracts have not been released.

“We in athletics are a little bit different because we do have our high-profile sports, and those salaries are market-driven,” Morris said. “Coach Alvarez, his leadership’s been able to do a really great job at helping us to try to have some sort of control over those salaries.”

In January, Morris told the committee that the projected budget at that time had revenue lagging behind expenses by around $3 million.

A season ticket price increase for football and volleyball helped to close that gap, with about $1.6 million in expenses cut since the January projection, Morris said.

Thanks to increases from the Big Ten Conference and ticket sales, projected revenues also increased 8 percent to $143.6 million in the 2018-19 budget.

Other major expense increases were in:

• Financial aid, up 20 percent to $11.5 million to more accurately represent what Athletics has paid in recent years, Morris said.

• Capital projects, including design fees for two major renovation projects on the horizon.

At the Kohl Center, UW hopes to add student-athlete training facilities and new offices in the southeast corner. And at Camp Randall, seating behind the south end zone has been studied for reconfiguring for club seats.

Those projects haven’t been approved but athletics had to budget for work toward that end.

Other capital projects planned for 2018-19, Morris said, include a renovation of the outdoor pavilion at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium, a remodeling of the softball locker room and weather-related bunker and cart path repairs at University Ridge Golf Course.

A required annual financial audit of the athletic department completed by Madison firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, showed no issues and reported that the 2016-17 financial year ended with an excess of more than $490,000.

The audit also detailed that the athletic department had more than $134 million in fundraising, endowment and other investments being held at the UW Foundation as of the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year. That’s 17 percent higher than the total as of a year before.


Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.