Tennessee’s $200 Million Debt Sums Up Program’s Current State
About the only thing the Tennessee Volunteers have going for them this year is their girls basketball team, but even after Pat Summitt‘s retirement, that team is as steady as the day is long. The rest of the program, however, isn’t in very good shape. The University of Tennessee’s athletic department is currently $200 million in debt, which could spell disaster for the foreseeable future.
The Lady Vols basketball team might be good, but everyone knows college sports revolve around football, especially in the SEC. Tennessee has suffered through four losing seasons in the past five years, including all three under former head coach Derek Dooley. He was finally fired after an embarrassing loss to Vanderbilt (Tennessee’s seventh SEC loss of the season) and wasn’t even allowed to coach the Volunteers’ final game. Ironically, that contest was a 20-point victory over rival Kentucky.
The firing of Dooley was overdue, but so is the bill for the Vols’ athletic department. Getting rid of Dooley cost the program a $5 million buyout for the rest of his contract, which sums up everything regarding Tennessee athletics in recent years. Costly coaching buyouts and pricey facility advancements/renovations don’t exactly equal a mountain of money when sports teams are losing. With a $99.5 million athletic budget and $21 million in annual debt payments, Tennessee’s financial woes may be just beginning.