ATHENS – The UGA Athletic Association’s finance committee on Monday voted to submit a record $173.6 million budget to the board of directors for approval at the end-of-year meeting late next week.
The Fiscal Year 2024 operating budget for that was submitted represented a 7% increase over last year. That’s due primarily to significant boosts in ticket and donation revenue “due higher giving levels due to the recent success of the football team,” Stephanie Ransom, UGA Athletic’s deputy athletic director for finance said in her presentation to the committee during a video conference call Monday. “… We are also proposing increase in the premium seating sections driven by contributions associated with the new press club coming online for Season ‘24.”
UGA is the first phase of a two-phase renovation plan at Sanford Stadium that will convert the Dan Magill Press Box on the south side club level into a premium seating section for donors. When completed after the 2024 season, that construction project is expected to cost at least $63 million.
Meanwhile, Georgia will host seven home football games in 2023 rather than the usual six. That’s because the Bulldogs had to give up a long-scheduled away game against Oklahoma due to the Sooners (and Texas) joining the SEC in 2024.
That actually decreased slightly ticket revenue for the Bulldogs because they are having to pay higher guarantees for non-conference opponents, Ransom told the committee. UGA will play host to UT-Martin, Ball State, UAB and Georgia Tech in out-of-conference games this fall. Georgia is paying $3.9 million for three of those opponents. It does not pay Tech because of their annual home-and-home arrangement.
Georgia also will not be participating in any early-season guarantee games at neutral sites in the fall. The Bulldogs made more than $5 million playing Oregon in Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium last September. They received a similar payout when they played Clemson in the Dukes Mayo Classic to start the 2021 season.
UGA also expects to bring in about $2 million more for sponsorships, licensing and product endorsements in the coming year. That also is driven by having a seventh home football game, the overall success of the football program winning back-to-back national championships and a “new revenue-guarantee model” with UGA’s secondary ticket market provider, StubHub.
The new budget also proposes a 40% increase in the men’s basketball revenue.
“This is a reflection of the interest and enthusiasm for our men’s basketball program,” Ransom said. “So, we’re looking forward to next season.”
The men’s team went 16-16 in Year 1 under coach Mike White and just closed on a recruiting class that ranks No. 2 in the SEC, according to On3.com.
UGA will not, however, necessarily make more money in 2024, Ransom said. Without sharing specifics with the committee, the Bulldogs’ expenses also are expected to increase significantly in the coming academic year. UGA expects to spend more travel, food, utilities and maintenance in the next year.
“We’ve been impacted just like everybody else by inflation,” Ramsom said.
Accordingly, UGA is providing a cost-of-living salary adjustment for all employees and is adjusting staff benefits, which were up more than $1 million during the current year, Ransom reported. The Athletic Association also will donate $4.5 million to the university, which it has done annually for many years.
Also, UGA already has executed significant raises for members of the football coaching staff. Meanwhile, negotiations are in the works to adjust head coach Kirby Smart’s contract. It was less than a year ago that Georgia made him the highest-paid coach in college football with a 10-year, $112.5 million deal. Smart’s salary has since bee surpassed by Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, if not a couple more coaches.
UGA has to come with the money to do that and remain on the positive side of its ledger.
“This was a tough budgetary development cycle with cost increases across the board,” Ransom told the committee. “But you’ll find that (the budget) is balanced.”
“There were a lot of inflationary pressures that we’re facing on the university side, with health insurance, with utilities,” echoed Ryan Nesbit, UGA’s vice president for finance and administration and treasure for the athletic board. “In all those things we’re just seeing unprecedented increases and cost pressures. So, a lot of great work and some creative thought went into creating this budget for FY ‘24.”
The motion to present the budget to the full board was unanimously approved by the committee. The group will meet at its annual end-of-year meeting and retreat on May 25 at the Ritz Carlton Lodge on Lake Oconee on May 25.
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Credit: Henri Hollis / Henri.Hollis@ajc.com