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What’s Unique about Louisville’s Athletic Budget?

Last Updated on June 21, 2011

Those who have read my work or followed me on Twitter for any appreciable amount of time know that I’m a huge fan of the University of Louisville’s athletic department and Athletic Director Tom Jurich. You should know this comes from a sincere place, because I’m not a Louisville grad. In fact, they nabbed one of my alma mater’s most talented assistant coaches, Charlie Strong.

When Tom Jurich took over the Louisville post more than a decade ago, he inherited a program in danger of being out of Title IX compliance. Today he reigns over an athletic department that has built (or is building) a brand new facility for every single men’s and women’s sport, with the exception of football (which received an expansion). His basketball program is the 21st most profitable program in the country behind 20 college football programs. In fact, his basketball program ranks ahead of every football program in the Big East, ACC and Pac-10.

Each time I contact Tom Jurich’s office I learn something new about him and his athletic department that strengthens my admiration of the work he has done. Today, I’m looking at Louisville’s 2010-2011 athletic department budget.

The first thing that strikes me about this budget isn’t numbers, it’s a list of Athletic Department Goals. I’ve reviewed around a dozen budgets this spring and not one has included a section like this. It’s the very first page of Louisville’s budget after the cover page.

My boyfriend trains high school athletes, and in his spare time he trains me. When I complain about an exercise he asks me, “Why do we do this?” The correct answer from me is, “Because I have goals.” University of Louisville’s athletic department has goals. Before you get to the details of Louisville’s budget, you’re reminded of its goals. Eyes on the prize.

Here are the goals that preceded Louisville’s 2010-2011 budget:

1. To strive to maintain the highest level of ethics in the University’s athletic program to ensure the integrity of the program is not compromised.

2. To continue to support our Compliance Office and maintain our exemplary record in this area.

3. To continue to support our Academic Counseling office as we work toward constant improvement, excellence in the classroom.

4. To provide quality intercollegiate athletic programs for student-athletes, students, alumni, faculty-staff and the public.

5. To continue to support a comprehensive gender equity plan to assure the University’s ongoing compliance with Title IX. to meet annually with our Title IX consultant to assure compliance.

6. To continue marketing the Hickman Camp Fund as the Athletic Association’s source of endowment for funding future athletic scholarships.

7. To continue a funding model that allows all programs the opportunity to be successful in the Big East and NCAA.

8. To implement/monitor the agreement with the Louisville Arena Authority that allows University of Louisville to provide a new facility for its Men’s and Women’s basketball programs with priority dates and new revenue opportunities.

9. To finalize the marketing of the Arena and Stadium Expansion in preparing for openings in 2010.

10. To continue fundraising efforts for construction on: (a) the expansion of Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium and (b) a boathouse for the Rowing team on the riverfront.

11. To maintain a financial plan with balanced annual budgets, expenditures sufficient to support athletic programs at the national level, and to continue to pursue new sources of revenue.

12. To continue to grow the Merchandising and Licensing Program to become much more visible, both nationally and internationally.

13. To continue to work with the University’s Administration to assure the Athletic Department is an integral and vital part of the University. Staff will continue to participate on University-wide committees and participate in joint efforts when requested.

Maybe these all seem like common sense goals for an athletic department to have. Differences in business units (which is what athletic departments are) can be seemingly miniscule. So what if Tom Jurich inserts his goals for the athletic department in the budget? It’s not like every school doesn’t have similar goals, right?

I believe tiny nuances in leadership can make huge differences in any business unit . Tom Jurich is telling his department repeatedly what the goals are. Repetition breeds success. He’s put them before the numbers. To me, that says long-term goals are more important than the balance sheet of any one given year.

Before Coach X reviews the budget and sees that he’s not getting as much of an increase in expenditures as he requested for his sport, he’s seeing the department’s goals reiterated. Placing these goals the first page of the budget says, “Remember, these are our goals. Not making $X from football or $Y from basketball, but doing these things to improve our athletic department as a whole.”

And Louisville’s athletic department has improved since Tom Jurich’s arrival. Louisville only missed the self-sustaining athletic departments list for the 2009-2010 school year by approximately $1.8 million. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make the list in coming years with increased revenue from the football stadium expansion and new basketball arena. The athletic department confirmed for me today that revenue from the new basketball arena exceeded projections for ticket sales, suite rentals and concessions, although final numbers are not yet available.


  • Kristi Dosh

    Kristi A. Dosh is the founder of and has served as a sports business analyst and contributor for outlets such as Forbes, ESPN, SportsBusiness Journal, Bleacher Report, SB Nation and more. She is also the author of a book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires. Kristi is a sought-after consultant and speaker on topics related to the business of college sports and a former practicing attorney. Click to learn more



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