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UConn reports more than $40 million athletic deficit

Spending in the athletic division at the University of Connecticut outpaced revenue by more than $40 million in 2018, the school reported Thursday.

In an NCAA financial statement, UConn reported that total generated revenue from sports last year totaled $40.4 million, while expenses came in at $80.9 million.

UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said the gap is a result of declining conference and media licensing revenue and rising costs.

"It is not sustainable and the Division of Athletics is continually working to identify savings and drive up revenue in order to help close this gap," she said.

The school, with most of its athletic programs in the American Athletic Conference, struggles to compete fiscally with similar programs in the higher revenue-generating Power Five conferences — the Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference and Pac-12.

The school reported receiving $7.1 million in conference distribution funds last year and another $1 million in media rights, down from $7.3 million reported in 2017. By comparison, the average school distribution for the Southeastern Conference was reported to be about $41 million and Big Ten schools reportedly received an average of about $38.5 million.

To help close its budget gap, the athletic division received $30 million in institutional support and another $8.5 million from student fees last year. That was down from $34 million in institutional support in 2017.

The statement shows the football program had an $8.7 million deficit; men's basketball lost about $5 million; and women's basketball, a perennial power, lost just over $3 million.

Football is the school's most expensive program, with operating expenses totaling just over $15.7 million. Ticket sales for the football program, which finished with a 1-11 record, totaled $2.4 million, compared with $3.3 million in 2017.

Men's basketball operating expenses totaled $11.1 million and women's basketball expenses were reported at $7.8 million.

Ticket sales for the men's basketball games totaled $3.1 million, while ticket sales for the women's games brought in $2.4 million.

Athletic director David Benedict has said UConn's financial struggles won't impact the planned construction of new baseball, softball and soccer stadiums, which are being paid for mostly through private donations.

The school has not said whether it is contemplating eliminating any athletic programs. But Reitz said athletics remains an important part of the school's fabric.

"UConn is today a top-20 university with outstanding academics and it is safe to say that we would not have gotten here without athletics," she said. "It is not a coincidence that the university saw skyrocketing applications and a greater appetite for investment in UConn on the part of the state at the same time as successful athletic programs were raising the university's profile statewide and nationally."

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