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The University of Tennessee

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Notes from the Chancellor » New Game Plan for Football, Finances

New Game Plan for Football, Finances

Our football program is rewriting its game plan. We’re hiring a new coach, and we intend to compete at the highest level and win championships. We’re also making changes that will help get our athletics program back on track financially.

Athletics is an important part of the collegiate experience and our calling card with the community. Athletic events bring hundreds of thousands of people to our campus each year and connect them in some way to the university.

Competing at the highest level heightens the national profile of our university and translates into an excited fan base, more and better students, and more enthusiastic and engaged alumni.

Athletics is no different from a college, department, or non-academic unit that faces financial difficulties, and we are approaching this problem in a similar manner.

Forgoing Contributions

For the next three years, the money the athletics department has given to the campus—an average of $6 million per year—will be reinvested in the athletics department. Relieving athletics of this commitment will allow the department to add $18 million to its bottom line over three years.

Let me be clear: We are not providing any state or academic funding to athletics; we simply have agreed to forgo the athletics department’s contributions to the campus for the next three fiscal years.

The athletics department will continue to pay debt service on garages.

What This Means to Academics

Most of the funding we’ve received from athletics has provided scholarships and fellowships.  We will not reduce our commitment to students and will fund these initiatives from reserves and private gifts.

No currently funded programs will be impacted. However, we may not be able to commit resources to new initiatives.

I can assure you this will not impede progress on our journey to becoming a Top 25 public research university.

Attaining Financial Stability

We are one of only a handful of schools across the country that does not give state dollars to athletics.

A healthy football program pays for most of the other sports programs for our student-athletes and allows for the generous contributions the campus has received over the years.

If we don’t attain financial stability in athletics—and specifically our football program—we could see ourselves using other campus resources for our athletics program.

Overhauling athletics funding means more than improving the game on the field.

Historically, athletics has committed money to the campus at the beginning of each year, without regard to what their finances may look like at the end of the year. We need a more sustainable model where contributions are made after accounting for all expenses and obligations.

Athletics is in a period of transition, but we will help get it where we need it to be. We are committed to winning both on the field and in the classroom.