Forget the Turtle, Fear the Debt

Conference realignment has been, and always will be, about the money:

Of the 120 schools in the NCAA’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, only 23 turned a profit before subsidies in fiscal 2011, meaning that the Terps were one of 97 that didn’t. Maryland’s athletic department, however, was paying its own bills until the 2010–11 athletic year. Even though expenses had outpaced revenue by $2 million to $3 million each year from 2006 through 2010, the department was able to cover the shortfall with reserves it had built from the more fruitful years. But in the 2010–11 athletic year, the athletic department depleted those reserves and borrowed from the university to cover a $7.8 million shortfall.

That was when Maryland made two costly coaching changes in its two biggest revenue-producing sports. Maryland fired its popular football coach, alum Ralph Friedgen, after a season in which the ACC honored him as football coach of the year. Then longtime basketball coach Gary Williams, another popular Maryland alum, retired following the 2010–11 season. Both changes rocked the athletic department’s finances. Maryland spent nearly $3 million paying off Friedgen and his staff for the additional year that was left on the coach’s contract. The school also created a high-paying administrative job for Williams that guaranteed him more than $800,000 over the following two years. That was only the start. New football coach Randy Edsall was guaranteed $2 million a year — the going rate for top coaches. Maryland also had to pay Edsall’s former school, Connecticut, $400,000 to cover his buyout.

The Terps are hoping their move to the Big Ten will cover their years of financial mismanagement in the athletic department. Good luck with that.

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