Posts Tagged ‘UW Athletic Department’

Baggot’s criticisms of Alvarez surprising, commendable

It’s not often I’m overly impressed by journalism within the state of Wisconsin. For the most part, in my experience, news coverage in this state gets the job done, but does little to wow its readers or viewers.

With that, I think it’s important to note I was particularly impressed with the efforts of one local writer this week: Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal. I’ve always thought of Baggot as one of the best reporters along which I’ve had the privilege of working. His columns, on the other hand, sometimes leave something to be desired.

Which brings me to this week. Baggot’s column about Barry Alvarez and the UW Athletic Department’s inability to raise sufficient funds for a hockey practice facility was one of the best I’ve read recently. Not only by Baggot, but by anyone in the area.

First, Baggot’s strong suit (reporting) is well showcased in the piece. He uses good statistics, applicable quotes from Alvarez and others, and reports on something he knew was likely to be announced the next day. While many others may have waited — by choice or necessity — to write a similar piece after the announcement of the delay, Baggot knew enough about the situation to write it beforehand.

What Baggot did was to essentially announce the project delay before the UW even did so.

At the same time, and more importantly, Baggot did not hold back. His column could have just been about how it was disappointing to see the project delay, and express an opinion on how important the facility was to Badger hockey. Such a column would be good, but not really anything groundbreaking.

Instead, Baggot chose to criticize Alvarez for his lack of ability in bringing in money for such projects. With the power of Alvarez and others within the UW Athletic Department to shut out any media member from sporting events, you definitely have to pick your battles. For many, attacking Alvarez would not be a battle worth fighting.

But because Baggot had sufficient information and certainly felt strongly about the situation, he made his opinion known. And his main point was a good one, too.

“If you want people to donate large sums of money to a cause, you don’t embarrass them. You woo them.”

Hopefully, if Alvarez is even the least bit embarrassed by the column it will have a positive effect on future donation recruiting efforts within the UW Athletic Department.

Even if it doesn’t, it’s a column that certainly was worth writing for Baggot. And if you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth reading for anyone who cares even slightly about the Badgers.

When $17 million just isn’t enough

February 27, 2010 Comments off

What would you do with $18.3 million?

That sum is the amount of money expected from football ticket sales by the University of Wisconsin Athletic Board in its 2010-11 budget approved last Friday. It also accounts for more than 22 percent of the $83.088 million budget request approved by the board.

Along with the budget, the board approved a $3 per ticket increase for general public and student season football tickets, increasing the prices to $42 and $22 per game, respectively.

Working with the board’s figure of $18.3 million, the ticket increase would bring in $1.3 million for the season. If that were the case, a 7.14 percent price increase would generate a similar percentage of the expected football ticket revenue for the department.

But is an additional $21 out of every season ticket holder’s pocket necessary for just a 7.1 percent increase when state unemployment rates reached 8.7 percent in December 2009?

The answer, in short, is yes.

A $3 per ticket hike represents a 7.14 percent increase, which is greater than the average ticket price increase (5.3 percent) in 2010 for the Milwaukee Brewers but less than the increase (up to 15 percent) announced by the Green Bay Packers last month.

Likewise, the University of Wisconsin remains sixth in the Big Ten in terms of ticket prices and the $42 price tag is less than the conference average of $44 per ticket.

Ticket prices for the university’s other two revenue-generating sports — men’s basketball and men’s hockey — remain unchanged, as they have since 2006 and 2005, respectively.

The board’s decisions were expected and the ticket increase for football was the first by the UW in any major sport since increasing football ticket prices in 2007.

Based on rising costs for team travel, scholarships, and equipment (among other things) it’s clear a $3 increase was necessary for the financial sustainability of the Athletic Department. Since the last ticket price hike in 2007, tuition alone at the university has gone up $1,125.36 (15.6 percent) from $7,188.40 to $8,313.76.

Considering tuition makes up a significant portion of the full and partial scholarships awarded to approximately 350 athletes annually, the rising costs of tuition have certainly had a significant impact on the Athletic Department. According to the department’s 2008-09 annual report, UW scholarship costs are expected to reach $10 million per year by 2011.

Of its $83 million budget, only 30 percent is “guaranteed” money according to what John Jentz, the associate athletic director for business operations told the finance, facilities and operations committee last week.

The other 70 percent comes from fans, including (but not limited to) ticket revenues.

Though the UW has 23 Division I sports, the Athletic Department relies on football to generate more than two-thirds of its ticket revenue. Through that revenue, and a five percent budget cut for 22 of 23 sports next year, the Athletic Department expects a surplus of just over $100,000.

Since the sizes of Camp Randall Stadium and the Kohl Center cannot easily be increased, the only logical way to increase revenue is through raising ticket prices.

Furthermore, based on the average time between raising ticket prices, the board easily could have increased prices by $3 in men’s basketball as well, generating another $900,000 in revenue based on the team’s average attendance over 18 home games last season.

Doing so would give the Athletic Department a generous surplus of more than $1 million, as opposed to a slim positive margin of a little more than $100,000. Such a surplus could even negate the need to make five percent budget cuts for the second of three consecutive years.

But by choosing to forego raising basketball (and hockey) ticket prices for another year, as well as cutting the budget by five percent for all but one sport, the board showed concern for the current economic climate while also addressing its own financial needs.

There was simply no other way for the department to remain financially self-sufficient and support 23 Division I sports without making more significant budget cuts.

For that, the UW Athletic Board should be commended for the $3 ticket increase.