The annual report on the financial health of Washington State athletics is here and it looks much like it did last year. The department ran a $13.27 million dollar deficit in the 2016 fiscal year, about half a million bucks lower than 2014. Stefanie Loh's linked Seattle Times article includes a great spread sheet to break down the difference between this report and the last one if you really want to dig into the differences. We'll highlight some of the bigger pieces of news to come out of the chat athletic director Bill Moos had with the media today.
Athletics may not be solvent by targeted date
Moos had been hoping to get the athletic department out of the red and into the black by 2019 but acknowledged today that that may not happen. From Loh's piece:
Last year, Moos projected that the athletic department was on track to become solvent in 2019, but he admitted Tuesday that a targeted solvency date has become "kind of a moving target."
Translation: it's not going to happen by then. I don't think it's a matter of Moos spending irresponsibly though, debt services on facilities like the football operations building and CFP jumped over $2 million last year (likely the first time they had to make payments on the FOB). Like every athletic department in the country, expenses are continuing to increase and WSU is trying to keep pace. Contributions actually fell in the 2015 fiscal year which we probably could've expected after a less than stellar football campaign in 2014. Additionally, WSU isn't getting quite the revenue they expected from the Pac-12 Networks (more on than in a bit) which is hindering their ability to get to that solvency goal.
A new name for Martin or Beasley is on the table
Moos says he would be open to changing the name of Martin Stadium or Beasley Coliseum, but "the money would have to be right."— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) March 15, 2016
We'd always known this was probably an option, especially considering the money involved with changing the name could take out a significant chunk of that deficit WSU is running. To give you an idea, UW got $4.1 million per year just to rename the field at Husky Stadium. I don't think WSU would be looking at a payment quite as large but a couple million bucks a year for a new name on the stadium would help things an awful lot.
We may get more home-and-homes with BCS teams
Moos said guaranteed paydays to mid-majors are becoming "outlandish" and "it's almost more advantageous to schedule home-and-home" for fball— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) March 15, 2016
"Outlandish" is probably under selling it considering Idaho got a million bucks just to get the pants beat off them by Auburn last year. Hell, they got $975,000 from Florida for a game they never even played thanks to the weather. Yes, Idaho had to travel further and SEC schools can certainly afford to shell out a little more cash but even a $600-700,000 yearly payment to an FBS cupcake is one WSU would like to avoid and I can't really blame Moos.
Most of WSU's games with "mid-majors" are already home-and-homes, saving WSU some coin compared to just paying out for a one-off game (like they will with San Jose State in 2017). WSU has six home and homes on the schedule right now (Boise State, Nevada's return trip, visiting Wyoming, BYU's return trip, Central Michigan and Wisconsin) and things are all filled out through 2019 but I'd expect the home-and-home trend to continue in the next decade. Add in a regional FCS team every year and you're set.
Incidentally, this could actually help WSU play Idaho more frequently if they end up back in the Big Sky since WSU could cut their payment to the Vandals significantly. So, if you'd like to play Idaho a little more frequently, root for them to march back to the loving arms of FCS.
Moos is open to selling a stake in the Pac-12 Networks
This is the biggie for me. We discussed last week why selling part of the network may be in the conference's best interest and it sounds like the feeling may be shared amongst some of the folks we told you to write your angry letters to.
Bill Moos is talking about the idea of the Pac-12 selling a share of the Pac-12 Networks. He's been critical in past, sounds more open now.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) March 15, 2016
Moos is running a $13 million plus deficit and every penny counts. Like we said last week, there's something to be said for owning your own network, but not at the expense the Pac-12 is paying. Which, as it turns out, is huge:
To put Pac-12 Networks revenue in perspective, the ADs considered $5/6m per school at this point conservative. Actual 2015 figure: $1.4m— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) March 15, 2016
Even at the lowest of low ends, the schools are getting $3.6 million less than they expected to get. Not an insignificant chunk of change, especially when WSU is paying nearly $6 million a year in debt service just on Martin Stadium renovations alone. In hindsight, some of those estimations may have been inflated but surely, having a partner like ESPN or Fox would've helped things a little bit. Moos knows there are advantages to the conference keeping a 100 percent hold on its network but the benefits may not outweigh the costs. Again, from Loh (emphasis mine):
"We’re optimistic that (Pac-12 Network distribution) number will grow, but there’s also the prospect of going at this in a different manner, which might include going to market not unlike the SEC Network and Big Ten," Moos said. "We’ve had discussions with the presidents to some degree, to look at some of the advantages and disadvantages. It’s something we’re exploring. It’s an option."
So now we know the idea is at least being kicked around by the conference's athletic directors and their bosses, the 12 men and women Larry Scott ultimately has to answer to. Whether we see any resolution to this soon remains to be seen but I'd be willing to bet something is done, at the very least, about the stupid regional programming the network has implemented before football season starts.