SBD/December 13, 2013/Colleges

UMass Football Subsidy Exceeds Projections By $1M As Attendance, Ticket Sales Lag

UMass students and Massachusetts taxpayers have spent $1M more than projected to "help fund the first two seasons of the UMass Amherst football team's ambitious -- and so far disappointing -- upgrade" to FBS, according to Bob Hohler of the BOSTON GLOBE. The subsidy is "expected to exceed projections by an additional $600,000 next season," reaching $5.1M of the $7.8M football budget. The overrun is considered a reflection of the football team's "struggle to generate enthusiasm for the upgrade, which included moving most of the team's home games to Gillette Stadium." The rising subsidy "triggered a new round of complaints that UMass leaders invested scarce public dollars that could have been better spent." UMass is two years into a five-year agreement with Gillette Stadium, and school administrators "continue to believe the program will thrive over time." UMass officials originally "projected the football team would generate an annual budget surplus" of more than $1M by '18. UMass Associate Dir of Media Relations John Sinnett said, "This is a long-term project." Hohler notes ticket sales at Gillette "improved from an average of 10,901 in 2012 to 15,830 in 2013, the highest ever for a UMass football team." Still, attendance "remained significantly lower than school officials had projected." UMass is scheduled to open the '14 season at Gillette against Boston College, which school officials "hope builds interest in the program." UMass also will "resume playing in Amherst" for the first time since '11. The school is "scheduled to play three games in refurbished McGuirk Stadium," and Penn State is "paying UMass $850,000 to play there" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/13).
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