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Volume 26 No. 232
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Seeing Red: Ohio State Athletics Reports $10M Operating Deficit

Ohio State's athletics department "reported an operating deficit" of $10M last year, the "first time in a decade that the department ended the fiscal year in the red," according to Joey Kaufman of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. However, OSU administrators "contend that the size of the budget deficit is significantly smaller -- a total shortfall of less than $1 million -- than what is listed" on its report to the NCAA. In its filing, OSU showed $210.5M in total revenues and $220.6M in operating expenses for FY '19. OSU "attributed the sizable discrepancy to bookkeeping, largely a change in how the department recorded donations." OSU AD Gene Smith said, "There's no way I would be sitting here with 36 sports if we had a $10 million deficit. It just wouldn't happen. I'd be dropping sports and ticket prices would go way up." OSU athletics said that the $10.4M difference is "made up of contributions from so-called 'plant funds,' money that was held from previous fundraising efforts." OSU "allocated money toward its budget" for FY '19, but "different external-audit requirements prevented it from recording the contributions on its report to the NCAA." While revenues had "increased by 8% to 10% in the previous two years," surpassing $200M during FY '18, OSU "saw only modest gains of about 2% last year as expenses rose precipitously." Declining football ticket sales "contributed to the slighter increase in revenue" after a renovation "removed some 2,000 seats" at Ohio Stadium (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/15).