WSU Athletics Overspending & Dropping Revenues Creates 11.5 Million Dollar Hole In This Year’s Budget

Washington State University Athletics is expected to run 11.5 million dollars overbudget this year.

Details of the Cougar Athletics worsening finances were released Friday morning ahead of next week’s WSU Regents meeting.  Documents to the board also detail an extensive plan to increase oversight of the department’s budget.  The revelations come a year after WSU President Kirk Schulz announced that Cougar Athletics had crafted its first balanced budget in years.

This year’s 14% budget shortfall is caused by Cougar Athletics overspending by 5.5 million dollars.  Pac-12 Conference revenues to WSU are down 3.5 million dollars.  Other revenues to athletics are down by 2.5 million dollars including declines caused by WSU’s dropping enrollment.

The documents to the board of regents detail an aggressive plan to increase oversight of Cougar Athletics.  New WSU Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Leslie Brunelli and a regent will review the department’s budget every month with Athletics Director Pat Chun.  President Schulz and Brunelli will then meet after those monthly sessions to review Cougar Athletics finances.  The administration will go back to providing an athletics department budget updates to the regents at all of their meetings.

The structure of how the budget is managed in athletics is also being strengthened.  The athletics finance officer position is currently vacant and has experienced turnover in recent years.  The post is being filled on an interim basis by an assistant VP in Brunelli’s office.  The interim athletics finance officer will have one-on-one budget meetings with Chun every week.  The next athletics finance officer will be required to report to Brunelli as her role as the university’s CFO.  Cougar Athletics next finance officer will be trained by Brunelli’s office.  Athletics will also create a new budget and finance manager post.  The plan also requires additional finance and budgeting training for Cougar Athletics staffers.  The administration is also requiring the athletics budget office to reconcile purchasing card use and travel spending every month.

The WSU administration placed spending cuts on Cougar Athletics last month when this year’s budget shortfall was revealed.  The department cannot fill current and future vacancies until further review.  Non-essential travel has been suspended along with professional development.

This year’s 11.5 million dollar Cougar Athletics budget shortfall is expected to increase the department’s total accumulated debt to nearly 106 million dollars starting in the next fiscal year.  President Schulz has stated repeatedly over the years that the department will pay back its total debt.

To cover the growing debt the regents will once again be asked to temporarily transfer money from university departments to cover the deficit at the end of the current fiscal year.  At the end of this month 74 million dollars will be transferred from housing and dining, parking and transportation and reserves to cover Cougar Athletics debt.

The WSU Regents are also being asked to approve athletics next fiscal year budget.  The plan outlines an 83.5 million dollar budget for fiscal year 2024 which is down about four million dollars from this year’s budget.

Next week’s athletics heavy meeting for the regents comes a month after President Schulz didn’t provide the board with any updates.  He told the regents that there was no new athletics budget information because the Pac-12 Conference’s new media rights deal wasn’t finalized yet.  Schulz then revealed the department’s worsening finances a couple of weeks later.

The WSU Regents will tackle the issues during their meeting in Pullman on Friday next week.  This all comes as Cougar Athletics Director Pat Chun is reportedly up for the AD’s job at USC.  Chun is scheduled to hold a press conference about his department’s finances this morning at 11:00.

You can read the documents to the regents here