Faced with a looming financial challenge on her campus, UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank has reached deeper into the pockets of one of her highest-profile departments.
A proposed 2015-16 operating budget for UW Athletics, a $113 million package unveiled Wednesday, is partially built around the fact the department has been asked to increase its annual services contributions to campus from $2 million to $5.5 million.
That total is on top of the roughly $3 million the campus currently receives in its arranged split of Big Ten Network revenue with the UW Athletic Department.
To avoid a budget shortfall for 2015-16, UW Athletics has proposed a $3 increase in season football tickets for the second straight year, moving the per-seat price at Camp Randall Stadium from $45 to $48. That ranks seventh in the 14-member Big Ten Conference.
That hike is on top of a bump in season tickets for men’s basketball — $3 per seat in the most desirable locations at the Kohl Center — that was approved last month.
Without the increase in season football tickets, which will bring in a projected $1 million in revenue, UW Athletics was projecting a budget shortfall of $733,550.
Members of the finance, facilities and operations committee of the UW Athletic Board voted to approve the ticket increase and the operating budget at its meeting Wednesday. The matter now goes before the full board at its meeting Friday.
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez didn’t attend the meeting Wednesday — he was participating in a fundraiser in Florida — but senior associate athletic director Walter Dickey said two points need to be made to all ticket buyers who follow the Badgers.
“One is we’re obviously grateful,” he said. “Secondly, we would point out … that in the last nine years the total increase in football ticket prices has been $9. Compared with the increase in tuition, we’re pikers.
“We want the message to our season ticket-holders to be, ‘We’re going to try to continue to do right. We hope you understand the constraints that we’re under.’ We’re going to do the best we can to make sure those constraints aren’t going to be taken out on our fans.”
The additional payout to campus comes as UW Athletics is trying to pay for a new cost-of-attendance financial aid plan being implemented at all Big Ten schools, which will add nearly $2 million to the budget; salaries and benefits that, in part, go toward converting 46 limited-term employees to full-time employees ($2.1 million); and a list of capital projects that includes a new roof for the Kohl Center ($3.4 million).
The request for an additional $3.5 million came shortly after Gov. Scott Walker introduced a proposed state budget for 2015-17 that seeks $300 million in cuts to the UW System.
Blank told the UW Board of Regents last week that the Madison campus is looking at a looming deficit of $91 million.
Dickey, who was a UW-Madison Law School faculty member from 1976-2011, said $1.5 million of the extra payout to campus is an annual “administrative services fee.” He said the rest came out of the fact that Blank “indicated to us that the campus needed money and we started talking about what we could come up with.”
Dickey said UW Athletics agreed to $2 million in 2015-16 and $2 million in ’16-17.
“The years after that are still to be finally determined, but they’re going to be higher,” he said.
Dickey said UW Athletics will pursue a “memorandum of understanding” that lays out all future considerations.