UT Vols athletics’ $6.5M deficit in 2018 due in large part to Butch Jones, John Currie
Tennessee’s athletic department operated at a $6.5 million deficit during the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to UT’s annual revenue and expense report submitted to the NCAA and obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee via a public records request.
By comparison, Tennessee operated at a $10.8 million surplus in the 2017 fiscal year, when it had only $1 million in severance expenses.
Tennessee reached a $2.2 million settlement with Currie in March after he was placed on paid suspension on Dec. 1, 2017. Phillip Fulmer replaced Currie as athletic director.
Jones and his staff were fired with time remaining on their contracts. Tennessee owed Jones a $8.26 million buyout due in monthly installments through the end of his contract, which expires Feb. 28, 2021.
Breaking down the buyout payments
Tennessee listed $13.8 million in buyout expenses for the 2018 fiscal year, which includes $11.5 million in football buyouts.
Not all of the buyout expenses listed on the 2018 fiscal report have been paid out. The report reflects dollars paid before June 30 and estimated money owed after that date, Tennessee’s athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak wrote in an email to USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee. Accounting protocol requires that Tennessee acknowledge the full buyout potential as of June 30.
The football coaches’ contracts included language requiring them to try to find new employment to mitigate the damages. New employment for UT’s fired coaches allowed Tennessee to recoup $3.1 million of the damages owed.
The buyout expenses can be further mitigated based on the fired coaches’ employment status following June 30.
Tennessee covered its operating loss with athletic department reserves, Satkowiak said. Those reserves now stand at about $9.5 million, down from $17.9 million. The decrease in reserve money also reflects planned transfers to capital facility projects, Satkowiak said.
In total, Tennessee athletics had an operating revenue of $143.5 million compared to $150 million in expenses.
What was Tennessee football responsible for?
Tennessee football brought in $98.3 million in revenue with $58.8 million in expenses for an operating surplus of $39.5 million.
That was down from an operating surplus of $49.6 million in the 2017 fiscal year. The buyout payments explain the difference.
Additionally, football saw a drop of nearly $1 million in ticket-sales revenue — not surprising considering attendance dropped during the 2017 season, when the Vols were 4-8. And revenue from football contract guarantees decreased by $1.5 million.
Despite the dropoff, football ticket sales remained a key revenue generator for the athletic department, bringing in $29.6 million. All told, athletics ticket sales accounted for $35.9 million in revenue.
Other big revenue generators across the athletic department were contributions ($34.1 million) and media rights deals ($33.5 million).
Salaries, benefits and bonuses for coaches, administrators and support staff accounted for $47.6 million in expenses.
By the numbers
Here are some key figures from Tennessee's revenue and expense report submitted to the NCAA for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Figures for the athletic department are listed first, with the football program's portion of the figure listed in parentheses.
- Ticket sales: $35.9M ($29.6M)
- Contributions: $34.1M ($29.1M)
- Media rights: $33.5M ($14.6M)
- Royalties, licensing, advertisement and sponsorships: $14.1 ($10.6M)
- Support staff/administrative compensation, benefits and bonuses: $25.8M ($3.4M)
- Coaching salaries, benefits and bonuses: $21.8M ($10.2M)
- Athletic facilities debt service, leases and rental fee: $16.9M ($11.1M)
- Athletic student aid: $14.5M ($4.8M)
- Severance payments: $13.8M ($11.5M)