With lagging ticket sales and a decline in donations, SIU's athletic department faced a $4.3 million deficit in 2015-16, according to numbers released Thursday by USA Today.
SIU's athletic department produced revenues of $23,241,053 in 2015-16, according to the report, and had $27,544,434 in expenses. The $4.3 million deficit was by far the largest of the public schools in the Missouri Valley Conference. Private schools in the Valley, including Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Loyola and now, Valparaiso, were not required to furnish financial reports to the NCAA Membership Financial Reporting System, which is where USA Today got its data.
The Valley actually had two of the 23 programs of 230 surveyed that had revenues exceed their expenditures, Wichita State and Illinois State. The Shockers, who had a profit of $2,482,889 in 2015-16, left the league July 1 for the American Athletic Conference. The Redbirds had a $590,732 profit.
Missouri State had a zero balance, with $26,208,346 in revenues and expenses. Northern Iowa (minus-$765,333) and Indiana State (minus-$57,941) finished in the red. Very few NCAA Division I athletic programs make money, which is why many of them, especially at the FCS level, take large allocations from their universities.
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SIU's allocation of $15.155 million was more than 65 percent of its total revenue. By contrast, Illinois State got $19.6 million from the school, more than 73 percent of its revenue.
Even the University of Illinois' athletic department, which gave more than $92,000 back to the school, had a hole of more than $5 million. The Fighting Illini earned $96,249,500 in revenue, a lot of it from the league's revenue-sharing deal with the Big 10 Network, and had more than $102 million in expenses.
New reporting rules by the NCAA required Illinois, and a few other programs, to count the amount of money they gave back to their schools as a loss. That amount could not exceed their allocations from those respective schools.
SIU sold $1,317,867 in tickets in 2015-16, down from 2014-15, when it sold $1,360,111. The Salukis went 3-8 in football in what turned out to be coach Dale Lennon's final season here. It was SIU's first losing season since 2011.
The men's basketball team had a big resurgence in coach Barry Hinson's fourth season, going 22-10, albeit with one of the worst non-conference schedules in the nation. SIU's average attendance that year, 5,278 fans a game, was the highest since 2008-09. The Saluki women's basketball team also won 20 games, going 20-13 in coach Cindy Stein's third season.
The SIU women made their first postseason appearance in nine years, losing at Western Illinois on a buzzer-beater in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI).
On the plus side, SIU earned more than $3.5 million in rights/license fees, which include radio and television contracts, online advertising, and revenue sharing from the NCAA and MVC. It was the highest revenue in that category since USA Today began tracking the numbers in 2005, and up nearly $300,000 from the previous year.
Donations fell for the third straight year, to $2,331,340. Saluki donors gave nearly $3 million in fiscal year 2013.
The price of scholarships continued to rise, past $6 million in 2015-16, as well as the cost of operating SIU's athletic facilities and other expenses.
SIU's athletic department had a $3.05 million deficit in 2015 and $3.16 deficit in 2014. SIU dropped its men's and women's tennis programs and reduced the number of scholarships for the men's swimming and diving team from 9.9 per year to 6.0 beginning in 2017-18. It was the first time SIU cut sports since interim athletic director Dr. Charlotte West dropped wrestling, women's field hockey and men's and women's gymnastics in 1989.
The department said the cuts would save about $660,000 a year.
SIU will compete in 16 sports in 2017-18, eight men's and eight women's.
SIU athletic director Tommy Bell said in January, when he announced the cuts, he had reduced the department's expenditures by more than $1 million and was working toward more cost-savings. He said he hoped to increase the amount of donors to the Saluki Athletic Scholarship Fund, which helps alleviate the rising costs of scholarships, improve ticket sales and continue to work toward major gifts.
The one thing that could help the athletic department immediately is, mostly, out of its hands. SIU's enrollment fell to 15,987 students last fall, the fifth time in the last six years it dropped. Student fees provided the department with more than $8.6 million the last two years.
On Twitter: @THefferman