By Sam Neff
BYU Associate Athletic Director Duff Tittle doesn’t know what he would do with an operating budget of $41 million. That’s how much the University of Texas gets according to a December Fortune article.
We could run our entire athletic program for three years on that budget, Tittle said.
Of course the Longhorns bring in over $45 million a year from tickets, donations, advertising, concessions and other sources. That’s a number Tittle only dreams of. That is, when he can sleep.
After a few years of travel expenses in the 16-team WAC mega-conference and a drop in TV revenue, BYU’s athletic budget was bleeding red. Rainy day funds were covering the million dollar annual deficit.
But those funds are running out, according to Tittle, and it rests on his shoulders to find new revenue streams to bring the books back to the plus side.
While fans may mock the corporate-sponsored extra points and plays of the game, these do pay the bills.
Despite the rainy days in accounting, the sun’s never been shining brighter for BYU athletics. BYU is currently ranked No. 8 in the Sear’s Director’s Cup, which ranks college athletic programs based on the performance of their teams. BYU is postured for its highest-ever finish in the Director’s Cup.
Even so, at least two BYU sports teams won’t be celebrating. With the addition of softball last year and the budget bursting at the seams, something had to give, and what gave was wrestling and men’s gymnastics.
Men’s gymnastics tumbled out of BYU’s lineup this spring and wrestling is pinned as well–that is, unless fund-raising efforts for a $7 million endowment to fund the program are successful.
“We don’t want to cut any more programs,” Tittle said.
However, Tittle said that until the athletic program can generate more revenue, nothing is certain.
“As far as I know, nobody’s talked about cutting the next sport,” Tittle said.
While Tittle was not involved with the elimination of the programs, he said that as he understands it, finances played a bigger factor in the decision than Title IX–the imfamous clause in the Education Amenities Act of 1972 that requires athletic programs to offer equality for women in participation, scholarship allocation, recruitment spending and coaching resources.
“As far as I know Title IX was in the background,” Tittle said.
Still its no coincidence that both of the axed programs were men’s sports, and many involved with those programs have blamed Title IX.
While Title IX was not intended to cut men’s programs, wrestling programs around the country have been reduced by nearly two-thirds since the act was passed. Men’s gymnastics is in danger too. With barely more than 20 men’s gymnastics programs, the sport may soon be a dinosaur.
Even with the cuts, BYU may still not be completely in compliance with Title IX.
“We’re making an effort to get closer (to compliance)” Tittle said. “We’re about providing opportunities. We’re really committed to that.”
BYU has over 600 athletes on scholarship.
Many students also credit Title IX for the downfall of the sports. While gymnastics and wrestling were never fan favorites, they have found plenty of sympathizers.
“BYU did what it had to do,” said Helaman Hurtado, 22, majoring in international marketing, although Hurtado said he did disagree with Title IX.
“I think it’s pure politics,” said Martin Harris, a sophomore from Marietta, Ga. majoring in communications. “You could even say sexism.”
Christy Bateman, 19, from Salt Lake City, who had a friend on the gymnastics team, said she was disappointed to see the programs go.
Chris Garvin, a sophomore from Folsom, Ca. majoring in English teaching, works with BYU’s summer sports camp program and finds himself at a loss trying to answer all the kids who ask why BYU cut its wrestling and gymnastics.
“I think it affects people on a personal level,” Garvin said. “It removes an aspect of the education.”
While many blame Title IX for widespread cutbacks in men’s athletics, supporters of the act blame excessive spending on major men’s sports, such as football, for the deficit.
Football takes 85 scholarships and has the largest coaching staff of any sport, but Tittle disagrees with the assessment.
“I don’t know how they can say that,” Tittle said. “If we don’t have football, we’re turning off the lights and going home.
“Football funds what we do.”
Tittle quotes Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds from the Fortune article, “If we were a business, we wouldn’t have any sport but football.”
He then reiterates that the athletic program is about providing opportunities. Opportunities that cost money to provide.