ROSEMONT, ILL. – Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague delivered some financial news Tuesday that was big in a Minnesota context, if not necessarily a Big Ten context.
During a break at the Big Ten spring meetings in the conference’s palatial new headquarters, Teague said the university plans to break ground on its $150 million athletic village in mid-August, pending Board of Regents approval.
The Gophers have raised more than $70 million toward the project, and Teague said,
“We’ve got some pretty significant gifts that we’re getting down to the wire on, which are really encouraging.”
The school is working to finalize the plan ahead of the June 11-12 Board of Regents meetings. The Gophers have lagged behind the rest of the Big Ten with their practice facilities, especially for football and basketball. This project will boost those and other sports and build an academic and nutritional center to serve all 750 of the school’s athletes.
“We’ll finance a little bit of [the $150 million total],” Teague said. “We were planning to do that all along to use some future revenues because you can bond at a great rate right now. And we just need to get to where, middle of the summer we’re at about 80 percent of [$150 million], which I’m confident we’ll get there.”
As Teague said this, he was seated next to the Big Ten Experience, an interactive museum filled with flat-screen televisions and other gadgetry at the conference’s new $20 million headquarters. The three-story building, which opened last June, also features a Brazilian steakhouse.
The Big Ten also is getting ready for its next round of television negotiations, as its current deals with ABC, ESPN and CBS expire in two years. The next deal is expected to pay Minnesota and 11 other schools a reported $44.5 million annually, beginning in 2017-18, up from $30.9 million this year. Rutgers and Maryland, newcomers to the Big Ten last year, won’t receive a full share of the conference’s TV revenues until 2020-21.
Rutgers AD Julie Hermann said the next TV contract has “been a nonstop conversation in our league meetings.”
But even with the boost in revenue from the Big Ten Network in recent years, Minnesota’s athletics department still has struggled to break even. According to 2013-14 budget figures obtained by USA Today, Ohio State’s athletics department turned a $23 million profit. Michigan made $12.5 million, and Nebraska made $5.2 million, but no other school in the conference made more than $5 million off athletics, with Minnesota coming in at $1.9 million.
“It’s an amazing thing — college athletics. I think many people think we’re flush with cash,” Teague said. “But when we do our budgets every year, it’s a battle, especially at Minnesota.”
Beginning in August, schools from the Power Five conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 and ACC) will begin paying a “cost of attendance” stipend for each scholarship athlete. At Minnesota, that will be an additional $2,200 per full scholarship. Teague said the school is budgeting that at a $1.3 million cost.
Teague said one thing helping offset that budget hit is increased revenue from football season tickets. In December, the Gophers joined the national trend of expanding donation requirements for season tickets, nearly tripling the number of seats this affects at TCF Bank Stadium to 28,050. This drew some fan backlash, but Teague said the Gophers’ renewal rate is currently at about 90 percent of where it was last year at this time.
“That number really helps with what we are trying to do,” Teague said.