Tennessee Athletics on Verge of Financial Collapse

By Dan Irwin
Tennessee Volunteers
Jim Brown – USA Today Sports

The University of Tennessee and all of its sports across the board face a catastrophic debt problem brought on by the massive spending by their football program in order to keep on par with the rest of the Southeastern Conference.

Only problem, is that the Tennessee Volunteers haven’t exactly been in the winners’ circle lately as they’ve been accustomed to.

After losing seasons in four of the last five seasons and attendance near 40-year lows, it was discovered that the current overall state of Tennessee athletics finances are very bad.

With a typical operating budget, the athletic department handles about $21 million in debt per year. Roughly $13.5 million is covered by the school, and the rest by donations.

But according to a report by Sports Business Daily, the amount of money that the University of Tennessee currently has sitting in reserves is $1.95 million.

The effects of the financial ruin could be devastating. Without money available to advancing the program–recruiting, facilities, staff upgrades, etc.–Tennessee could find themselves sinking into a hole that may be nearly impossible for them to climb out of.

Athletic Director Dave Hart said what all Vols fans already know, “We’ve got to get football healthy. That’s our economic engine. When that program is successful, everybody wins.”

School chancellor Jimmy Cheeks has allowed the Vols to forgo their $7 million contribution to the school’s general fund to allow athletics to get back into a better spot.

Over the past five seasons, Tennessee has spent $11.4 million in buyouts to fired coaches. This does not include the $7 million owed to newly-fired Derek Dooley and his staff. That money will have to be made and paid in 2013.

The Vols also pay a tax to the city of Knoxville classified as an “amusement tax.” Under the old law, the city gets 5% of ticket sales as well as a slew of other lower-tier cuts. The University is currently in the process of attempting to have the law repealed.

It’s a sad place to see one of the most prominent college football programs of all-time. But there is one cure-all that would fix everything right away, and that is some wins on the field. Will the team be able to turn this into a motivator? They’ll have to. The state of their athletics future is almost literally depending on them.

Dan Irwin is a sports writer for Rant Sports.  Follow him on Twitter @ danirwin_rant or on Facebook at “facebook.com/danirwin.sports“.

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