University of Kansas

KU Athletics added $8 million to this year’s budget. The main reason? Football

KU’s new Athletic Director Jeff Long on his plans to turn the Jayhawks’ football program around

KU's new Athletic Director, Jeff Long was introduced Wednesday and already he's answering questions about how he can turn around the Jayhawks abysmal football program.
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KU's new Athletic Director, Jeff Long was introduced Wednesday and already he's answering questions about how he can turn around the Jayhawks abysmal football program.

Kansas Athletics added nearly $8 million to its 2019 fiscal year budget after proposing the change at a board meeting Thursday, with almost all of that money needed to cover football expenses.

KU’s original approved budget for financial year 2019 — that runs July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019 — was for just more than $99 million. That was bumped to north of $107 million Thursday, with KU Athletics chief financial officer Pat Kaufman saying that a majority of the extra spending was related to one-time football transition costs and also coaching staff additions.

The amended 2019 budget added $5.1 million in “transition” expenditures — money reserved to pay off previous football coaching staff members following last year’s firing of David Beaty and the hiring of Les Miles.

“We worked our way through that, and we were prepared to handle that,” KU athletic director Jeff Long told The Star after the meeting about that $5.1 million figure. “Obviously you have to make that judgment before you make a change in staff, that you have the resources to manage that, and we do.”

One matter that remains unresolved, though, is Beaty’s buyout. The former coach filed suit against KU in March, alleging that the school sought to concoct a reason to fire him for cause to avoid a $3 million payout. That lawsuit is still pending, with KU asking a federal judge to dismiss it two weeks ago.

KU also budgeted $2.5 million more for “salaries and benefits,” raising that number from around $31.1 million to $33.6 million.

Long said the bump there also was related to football.

“That’s the quality of coaches we’ve hired for assistants,” Long said. “We created a larger pool of money for Coach Miles to hire assistants. That was really one of the things he and I talked about in the interview process. From my standpoint, Coach Miles could have sought more for himself, but he was more concerned about making sure he had a pool of salaries to hire a quality staff.”

KU Athletics’ plan to cover the $8 million deficit will be with an increase in contributions. After originally budgeting that number at $20.2 million for 2019, KU’s new budget listed the amount at $28.49 million — an improvement of more than $8 million.

Kaufman said excitement from a recent Final Four run in men’s basketball and an understanding from fans that money was needed for football as reasons for the increase.

Long also said after the meeting some of the added donations total could be attributed to KU’s recent “Break The Cycle” campaign for football. He said, previously, the athletic department had not done specific fund-raising efforts for a single sport.

“We had great success on the front end,” Long said. “A number of donors chose to make those contributions on the front end, and we may spread them out over time.”

Long said that KU had about $12 million raised for its goal of $25 million for the Break The Cycle campaign, with another four years remaining to hit that mark.

KU Athletics also had its preliminary 2020 budget approved — one that will contain quite a few changes from 2019.

For one, expenses in the 2020 budget drop from $107,192,000 to $106,191,000. KU is set to have its $5.1 million in transition costs to come off the books then, yet it also is planning on paying $1.2 million more in coaches’ salaries — partly the result of a full year with the new football staff in place with its higher pay.

KU also will get a windfall with its Adidas contract extension, receiving $11 million in 2020 as compared to $4.3 million in 2019. However, KU is also budgeting for a significant stepback with contributions, planning on $22.7 million in 2020 compared to $28.5 million in 2019 — a decrease of almost $5.8 million.

Long said he didn’t have big-picture concerns about the falloff in contributions in 2020 after KU raised a higher number in 2019 following the football coaching change.

“We planned for that,” Long said. “And again, we’re always very conservative in those fundraising numbers, so we actually expect to exceed those numbers that you see in the budget.”

Long anticipated that a $106 million budget would be about what KU Athletics would need moving forward. Kaufman said during the meeting that the department estimated a 2% to 3% budget increase each year simply based on inflation.

“I think that’s the kind of budget we need to be competitive in this league while we maintain the strength of our basketball program and we build our football program,” Long said. “It’s clear that we have to invest in our football program if we expect to be better than one or two wins a year as we’ve done over the last few years.”

During the meeting, KU chancellor Douglas Girod asked how KU stacked up compared to its Big 12 peers in football resources after earmarking additional funds there this year. Long reported that KU was middle of the pack when it came to football staff size, while still in the lower half in terms of overall football expenses.

“It is a battle to keep pace,” Long said during the meeting. “But I always say we don’t need the most money. We don’t have to be in the top. We’ve got to be in a zone that’s striking the competitive zone.”

Long said afterward that the additional money for football was part of a long-term plan that was needed for the health of the athletic department.

“We have to invest. I know sometimes that’s difficult for our fans, because they feel like they’ve been patient, but really, when you compare us to our competitors, we have to invest in that program to expect different results,” Long said. “We are investing, and that’s going to be a process as well, but we’re going to have the resources for Coach Miles to build this program.

“We’ll see the benefits of that investment in the future. We’ll have a return on that investment.”

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.