MOSCOW Projecting an athletics deficit of $1,093,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, the University of Idaho will request an annual $1 million bump in institutional funds for the next four years when State Board of Education officials meet Wednesday in Boise.
According to a SBOE document, UI’s institutional funds cap is set at $949,500 annually. That number — the amount of money the university can transfer to the athletic deparment — would grow to $1,949,500 if the board approves the university’s request for a waiver on the cap.
Prior to the forthcoming fiscal year, the school was able to recover from its revenue shortfalls by utilizing athletic reserves. Those resources have since been exhausted, according to the document.
UI believes that a temporary increase in institutional funds — $1 million per year between 2017-20 — would help cover current and future athletic deficits.
The current shortfall can be largely traced to the school’s impending football transition.
In April, after being voted out of the Sun Belt Conference, Idaho announced a landmark decision to drop out of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and pursue football as a member of the lower-tier Football Championship Series (FCS) beginning in 2018.
The financial repercussions of that move have been substantial.
In the document, Idaho reports that contributions to the Vandal Scholarship Fund will be down $150,000 from prior fiscal years and non-VSF donations will see a $200,000 cutback.
“This $350,000 decrease in donations accounts for about a third of the projected current fiscal year operating deficit,” the statement read.
The actual number may be larger.
VSF donor Dave Cowan, the father of all-conference tight end Buck Cowan, said Monday he and his father Bob alone have “withheld $125,000” in 2017.
“UI expects this trend to continue for the next few years, as the football program begins to compete in the new subdivision,” the statement read.
While Idaho’s dip into the red can be partially credited to irked donors, the athletic deficit also stems from a decrease in “guarantee game” revenue.
In 2015, the football program netted $2.1 million by scheduling road games against USC and Auburn. But UI didn’t come to close to matching that sum in 2016, playing regional games against Washington and Washington State that drew only $1,575,000.
The $525,000 decrease accounts for almost half of the projected single-year deficit.
Idaho will cash in on dates with Missouri (2018, $1.3 million), Florida (2018, $1.2 million), Penn State (2019, $1.45 million) and Indiana (2021 and 2022, $2.5 million combined) — all games that were scheduled prior to the FCS move — but the program can expect the hefty paydays to cease once the Vandals settle into the Big Sky Conference.
Idaho has also detected a gradual decrease in annual student activity fees, which help sponsor athletics. The document states that student fees will be down from 2015 and 2016, creating a shortfall of nearly $315,750. That number represents nearly a third of the athletic deficit.
UI SEEKS ARENA APPROVAL
On Wednesday, the UI also will ask the State Board for permission to move forward with the planning and design phase of an events center that will act as the home facility for the school’s men’s and women’s basketball teams.
In October, UI unveiled plans for what will be called Idaho Arena. The facility will seat 4,700, consume approximately 70,000 square feet and sit adjacent to the Kibbie Dome.
The project will cost $30 million and construction could be completed as early as the spring of 2020. Idaho Arena will be subsidized by facility fees ($5 million), bond proceeds ($3 million), institutional funds ($2 million) and private gifts ($20 million).
According to a document, the planning and design phase won’t exceed $3 million. Once the phase is completed, UI will return to the State Board for approval to proceed with the construction phase of the project.