Financial records show Georgia athletics net $31 million surplus

Excavators begin the process of digging down in the area of Georgia's Woodruff Practice Fields where a new $80 million football operations will be built over the next year. (Photo by Chip Towers/ctowers@ajc.com)

Expenses are up and contributions are down, but Georgia athletics is very much in the black when it comes to its finances.

The Georgia Athletic Association remains one of the most profitable enterprises in the Southeastern Conference, netting nearly $31 million over expenses in Fiscal Year 2019, according to UGA’s latest NCAA financial report. That report was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday through an open-records request.

Georgia's surplus is tops among the SEC athletic programs that have shared their balance sheets publicly so far. All member institutions have to file a financial report to the NCAA by Jan. 15 each year. However, when those results are available for public review varies according to individual states’ disclosure laws.

Texas A&M typically is the SEC’s highest-grossing athletics program. But Georgia’s operations surplus of $30.7 million is the most among the schools to have opened their ledgers so far. The Bulldogs’ athletic program brought in $174,042,482 in Fiscal Year 2019, which ended June 30, 2019. That was actually $2.6 million less than the previous year’s operating revenues.

UGA spent a record $143,299,554 in operating expenses last year, leaving a balance of $30,742,928.

Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity attributed the Bulldogs’ strong bottom line to “football success, keeping down expenses and being fiscally responsible.”

While that number is considered profit, McGarity points out that almost all of it of that money already was spent in “capital projects” and predetermined outlays. The athletic association donated $5 million back to the university in 2019 and allocated $23.1 million to ongoing or recently completed facility improvements.

The remaining $2.7 million was turned over to the UGA Foundation for future athletic enhancements, according to Stephanie Ransom, deputy athletic director for finance. The Bulldogs have just broken ground on an $80 million football facility expansion. UGA already has raised $47 million toward that project through the Magill Society donors.

Since 2016, the Bulldogs have spent more than $120 million on construction projects, which includes the Payne Indoor Athletic Facility, the new locker room and West End improvements at Sanford Stadium, rebuilding the grandstands at Dan Magill Tennis Complex, a new equestrian facility and a new women’s soccer grandstand.

Almost all of the money for the football projects has been privately raised through the Magill Society, a donor group that gets ticket-purchasing priority by pledging at least $5,000 a year over a five-year period.

“The donor support we receive has allowed us to expand facilities at a rapid pace,” McGarity said.

Nearly a third of UGA Athletics’ revenue last year came from contributions — $52.5 million in 2019, 84 percent of which (or $44.3 million) was earmarked for the football program. But overall giving was down significantly from the previous year, 22.5 percent overall and 28.9 percent for football. Georgia reported $67.7 million in donations in Fiscal Year 2018, likely due to the Bulldogs run to the National Championship Game the previous season.

Georgia received $45.3 million from its revenue-sharing agreement with the SEC, which distributed $720.6 million to its members last year (up from $660 million the previous year). The athletic association also gets $3.5 million from student fees.

Accordingly, spending is up. There was a $2.7 million increase in coaching salaries from 2018 to ’19, a $2.2 million increase in compensation for support staff and UGA spent $1.2 million more on recruiting — $5.1 million overall and $3.7 million just for football — than the previous year. That was nearly 10 times more than men’s basketball, which spent $398,000 on recruiting in 2019.

Other expense increases included $1.4 million more on student-athlete meals ($3.8 million total) and $2.5 million more on game contract guarantees ($4.54 million in 2019).

“We’ve been able to provide significant resources for our student-athletes,” McGarity said. “We’re very thankful to all those that support our programs through ticket purchases and donations.”

As for the rest of the SEC, only a small portion have reported their revenues so far. Alabama brought in $188.6 million in total operating revenues, according to AL.com. However, the school reported only $164.1 million to the NCAA, explaining that “a change in tax laws” allowed it to defer $24.5 million in contributions to Fiscal Year 2020. Based on that accounting, Crimson Tide athletics had a $21.2 million shortfall in 2019.

Typically, Texas A&M leads the SEC in income. Last year, the Aggies brought in $212.4 million (Texas led the nation at $219.1 million) and made $46.6 million in profit. But A&M’s figures for 2019 have not yet been reported.

Other 2019 figures from SEC teams that have been published so far include Florida ($159.7M revenue/$17.9M profit), LSU ($158.9M/$8.9M), Auburn ($152.4M/$13.2M) and Tennessee ($145.7M/$10.8M).

UGA’s profit is actually down after years of steady increases. According to previous reports, the Bulldogs made $7.22 million in 2016, $38.63 million in 2017, $42.8 million last year and $30.7 in 2019. That's a total of $119,352,430 in surpluses over the last four years.

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