Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Yurachek’s budget transparency welcomed
There was a lot of honesty and transparency last week when the University of Arkansas athletic department submitted its proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
There also was a lot of hope and probably prayers.
It was the most honesty and transparency out of the department since Frank Broyles was walking around his office in his socks, which is something he liked to do.
Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek openly admitted the $124.5 million in projected revenue, a decrease from this year’s $125.6 million, was Plan A, and there is a Plan B and Plan C.
There has to be at every college in America right now.
Politicians, doctors and specialists can discuss the coronavirus all they want, but the bottom line today is no one knows anything for sure.
That includes whether or not there will be a college football season in 2020, and college football is the major moneymaker at just about every major school.
The UA, like Oklahoma and numerous other schools, has said it is preparing to have students on campus for the fall semester.
Officials should plan for that, just like coaches and ADs are planning on having a football season. But again, no one knows for sure.
While the pandemic has become a political shouting match, the truth is everyone needs to pull together against this invisible assassin. Teamwork is how you win.
On the sports level, not having football revenue could be devastating for many institutions.
So Yurachek and Clayton Hamilton, the deputy athletic director for finance (he’s a top-shelf accountant), said they were prepared to call an audible if there is no football.
Here are a few points that Yurachek made that the public deserved to know:
• Ticket sales last year were down to 34,000 from a high a decade ago of 55,000. So all those numbers we were getting about attendance those final couple of years under Jeff Long were tickets sold at a deeply discounted price or given away.
• Of the 34,000 season-ticket holders, 91% has renewed for next season.
• Yurachek made it clear that donations to the Razorback Foundation were critical. Most people suspected that, and it is the same at every Power 5 school.
• The Plan A budget includes getting paid by IMG, which has asked for a two-month delay in payment of several million dollars.
• That season-ticket sales have declined from 61,597 in 2016, despite the $160 million expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium by 3,300 seats that was completed before the 2018 season.
The “build it and they will come” theory obviously hasn’t worked.
There are probably several reasons ticket sales have declined, but No. 1 has been the product on the field.
In Bobby Petrino’s last two seasons, which date back nearly 10 years ago, he was 21-5 for an 80.8 winning percentage.
Since then, the Razorbacks are 37-62 for a 37.4 winning percentage.
Looking at the bang for your buck, it is no wonder why attendance has slipped consistently over the past eight years.
Sam Pittman appears to be the coach ready to rebuild the Razorbacks, but right now he’s having to do it over the internet because he didn’t have a spring practice and he can’t meet with his players.
Few major programs face the challenge of the University of Arkansas, which is to rebuild a football program practically from the ground up for a season that’s not guaranteed to take place.
The good news though is the AD was open, honest and transparent, and he’s prepared.
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