Success should lead to more revenue for Devils - East Valley Tribune: News

Success should lead to more revenue for Devils

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Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 11:15 pm | Updated: 9:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Supporters of Arizona State athletics had a lot to be excited about during the past year — three national championships, five Pac-10 titles and domination of archrival Arizona.

GRAPHIC: View ASU's many successes in 2007-08

Supporters of Arizona State athletics had a lot to be excited about during the past year — three national championships, five Pac-10 titles and domination of archrival Arizona.

However, athletic director Lisa Love knows that wins and championships will not come without proper management of the dollars and cents.

Click to view ASU's many successes in 2007-08

So while her department has had much to celebrate, Love is focused on the challenge of sustaining the Sun Devils’ success amidst harsh economic realities. That point was driven home in May when ASU eliminated three sports due to budget constraints.

“Our game plan has to start with a financial foundation,” said Love, who has been ASU’s AD for three years. “That was the most compelling issue when I came here, that the finances of our department needed to change.

“As the years go by, we should have a bigger financial return because of the success we have had on the field.”

In 2007-08, ASU won national titles in softball and indoor men’s and women’s track. The football team won 10 games, and men’s basketball reached the brink of the NCAA tournament. Baseball, women’s basketball, golf and tennis continued to perform at a high level.

Sun Devil teams also went a combined 19-5 against Arizona.

On the field, there is no reason for ASU fans to long for glory days, Love believes. They are here, she feels, evidenced by what is expected to be the school’s highest finish ever in the Director’s Cup standings that measure the overall success of athletic departments.

ASU is currently ninth in the standings, equaling its best showing, in 2001.

The final standings will be released on June 26.

“If we do this well, we’ll start off with volleyball, cross-country, soccer and football in the fall and finish it out at the end with baseball, the last NCAA championship,” Love said.

“It can be a really great adrenaline ride during the course of an (academic year) with the sports we sponsor.”

Love expects her department to have a $41.5 million budget balanced by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

The annual budget is about $3 million higher than in 2005, but rising expenses resulted in men’s swimming, men’s tennis and wrestling being cut.

Wrestling was reinstated as a varsity sport after private donors guaranteed to provide an $8 million endowment for the program to meet annual expenses.

“It’s a gut-wrenching process for the entire department,” Love said. “While winning those national titles was absolutely fantastic, I don’t think they could compare to the joy I felt at being able to announce that wrestling was back.”

When announcing the cuts, officials indicated ASU would save $1.1 million a year — money it currently does not have due in part to $30 million in service debt stemming from facility and staffing expenses during the 1990s. A $3.8 million payment was made on the debt in fiscal year 2008.

“(The debt) was part of the problem,” Love said.

“But what sideswiped a lot of people here is what has happened with the national and local economies. Think of what it costs to move a team across the country. The cost escalation was not something anyone could have anticipated.”

Thanks to ASU president Michael Crow’s decree that new structures must be 100-percent funded (or close to it), ASU is not going deeper into debt to build indoor football and basketball practice facilities currently under construction.

As a result, any gains in the annual budget will not be offset by increased debt payments.

“That, along with the $1.1 million in savings we’ll have, will ultimately help us to make investments in our core sports that we can’t right now,” said Amy Schramm, associate athletic director for business affairs.

Fundraising efforts for swimming and tennis continue.

Love said there is no drop-dead date for funding — the sports each need an endowment of $5 million — to be secured for tennis and swimming to compete in 2008-09, adding that, if necessary, the Pac-10 could quickly revise schedules.

“I was surprised how the constituencies of those three sports have reacted, and I say that in a positive light,” Love said.

“It was a confidence builder to see the dedication and passion of those who felt that young people wrestling at ASU was important. We’re starting to see that with the other sports.

“It’s an indication of what the climate can be at Arizona State to grow the entire department.

“If it’s evidence of what can happen on a broader scale, then fasten your seat belts, because this can be really fun.”

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