Georgia Bulldogs’ NCAA financial report shows big profits

Georgia fans cheer as players take the stage during the celebration of UGA's College Football Playoff national championship. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Georgia fans cheer as players take the stage during the celebration of UGA's College Football Playoff national championship. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs are bringing in so much money these days that they seem embarrassed to share the numbers.

The school’s athletic association finally released Wednesday the 2021 financial report that had to be submitted to the NCAA in mid-January. UGA released its 2020 report last year on Feb. 12. This year, the school utilized the state’s full 90-business-day exemption for public-record disclosure of athletic department documents. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution received a copy late Wednesday afternoon.

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What the documents revealed was an enormous bottom line. According to the NCAA report, the Bulldogs banked $46,341,763 in Fiscal Year 2021. That’s based on revenue totaling $169,064,656 versus expenses of $122,722,893. The resulting surplus was twice as much any other program in the nation, according to data compiled by USA Today.

College athletics departments and their associated foundations are structured as nonprofit organizations.

UGA points out that the reporting method required by the NCAA counts as revenue the funds it raises from Magill Society donations. The school contends that that money went directly to funding Georgia’s many construction projects, which have exceeded $185 million since 2017. UGA used $17 million to cover the balance of construction costs on the recently completed football operations addition at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, which is not reflected in the report.

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“As we indicate every year, the NCAA Membership Financial Report is straightforward, but distinctly defines revenues to include non-operating funds related to capital projects and interest income from investments but excludes operating departmental contributions to the University and non-operating current capital project expenditures,” Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks said in a statement circulated to beat reporters Wednesday evening. “Therefore, the balance shown does not reflect the full financial picture.”

UGA’s revenue also includes $15.9 million made from interest income off investments. The athletic association also donated $4.6 million to the university, as it does annually, and committed $3.1 million to “deferred facility maintenance and equipment.”

The school deposited $5.7 million into its reserves, which are managed by the UGA Foundation. UGA maintains that figure is closer to its actual profit margin.

“We've got to thank our donors for stepping up in crucial moments during COVID when they turned potential refunds into donations."

- Georgia athletic director Josh Brooks

However the numbers are calculated, Georgia’s financial work during FY 2021 was impressive considering it came amid a global pandemic. The Bulldogs played only 10 football games overall and hosted only three home football games at Sanford Stadium, with attendance limited to 20,524 rather than more than 92,000. Hence, ticket revenue dropped from $38.6 million to $4.7 million.

However, Georgia’s expenses were reduced dramatically during the year. Recruiting expenses dropped from $3.8 million to $940,000 after the NCAA shut down in-person visitation. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs asked season ticket holders who decided not to attend games to convert potential refunds into donations to a COVID-19 relief fund. Donors responded, and that resulted in an additional $20 million in revenue.

“We’ve got to thank our donors for stepping up in crucial moments during COVID when they turned potential refunds into donations,” Brooks said during a meeting of the athletic association’s finance committee Tuesday. “That allowed us to keep operating. That’s the strength of the Bulldog Nation, and it can never be undervalued.”

At that meeting, Stephanie Ransom, UGA’s deputy athletic director for business operations, reported that Georgia is projecting a revenue increase of 8% for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. That would mean an operating budget of about $162.5 million, based on UGA’s accounting, for FY 2023.

Meanwhile, Georgia is expected to reveal its FY 2022 numbers during its end-of-year athletics board meeting next week in Greensboro. Considering that the worksheet will include some of the windfall from the Bulldogs’ national championship run in football, expect those numbers to be eye-popping.

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