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University of Georgia top dog on financial list

We're number 1! The Georgia Bulldogs are again tops in the nation in something other than gymnastics, golf, tennis or swimming and diving. The U.S. Department of Education just released financial statistics of all college athletic programs in the country and the University of Georgia is on top.

In fiscal year 2005 the UGA Athletic Association reported revenues of $68.8 million and expenses of $44.9 million. The resulting profit is a whopping $23.9 million. Not bad for a bunch of student-athletes playing for a scholarship and love of the game.

The second place Michigan Wolverines cleared $17.1 million, not even close to the Bulldogs. From the SEC, only Alabama's $12.5 million profit was good enough to crack the top five nationally at number five.

Football at UGA brought in $50.9 million to the till while it cost "only" $12.5 million to field the team. Men's basketball even cleared $1.4 million while women's basketball lost more than $1.8 million. The other sports programs at UGA lost $11.5 million combined. These figures indicate that like most colleges and high schools, football is the cash cow that pulls the financial load. That's why you have to win in football, to keep the paying customers satisfied.

As a contributor to the Georgia Educational Enhancement Fund and a 26-year football season ticket holder, I'm not sure what to make of these gargantuan dollar figures. Should I be glad that the athletic department is so efficiently managed or should I feel like the biggest sucker alive?

Many folks don't realize that to have the right to buy guaranteed, renewable season tickets to Georgia football games one must donate to the athletic scholarship fund, now called the GEEF. When I graduated in 1980 the minimum donation was $50 per seat. Of course, you had to also pay the price of the tickets that were $10 each per game.

Since 1980 the GEEF contribution rate has been raised only three times, and I was grandfathered past the second one. In 2005 new contribution rates were established based on your seat locations. I don't sit on the 50-yard line but my seating area is considered second best among those not in the club level. Therefore my contribution rate more than doubled.

The price of a ticket is now $32, or $224 for a seven game season ticket. That price is well below what the other top football schools in the SEC charge. Adding away game tickets to four home season tickets and the contribution means I make two house payments in the name of Bulldog football.

The business savvy UGA Athletic Department collects your GEEF contributions in February and ticket money in March for games that will be played in the fall. For my family, our entertainment money is spent in the dead of winter and the show doesn't start until September.

Parking at games in Athens has become a tough and expensive proposition. In the old days, everybody who bought season tickets received a parking permit for somewhere on campus. Now you have to be in the upper echelon of contributors to even be considered for a permit, and even then you may not get one. You also have to see and hear nonstop advertising throughout the game and survive commercial breaks from television. This helps account for the money glut.

Georgia Tech reported a total athletic profit in fiscal 2005 of $1.5 million out of $38.9 million in revenue. Georgia spent $6 million more than Tech took in. Surprisingly, Georgia Southern also cleared $1.5 million from only $8.6 million of income. College athletics are big business everywhere.

Everybody likes the number one but this money game involves much bigger numbers. As long as we get what we're paying for I won't complain too loudly. I'll really be content if our receipt comes in the form of a crystal football trophy. At these figures, 93,000 folks in Sanford Stadium deserve to be on the receiving end.

Web posted on Thursday, April 27, 2006

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