Regent scolds UNLV president for athletic department’s budget deficit

Regent scolds UNLV president for athletic department’s budget deficit

February 23, 2017

UNLV officials this month cited dwindling attendance and poor-performing teams as primary reasons for the athletic department’s near $5 million budget deficit for the 2016-17 academic year.

On Thursday, the Board of Regents Athletics Committee did not want to hear excuses from UNLV brass.

“There’s some serious problems with UNLV athletics,” Regent Trevor Hayes said. “I think it’s irresponsible to pinpoint it solely on performances on basketball, which is a completely self-inflicted wound by a botched basketball coaching firing and search.

“The bigger issue is, and I want to know from President (Len) Jessup two things. You came two years ago to the most successful athletic program we have had in 20 years, and in two years it is now the least successful it has been in the entire history of the institution. How did that happen, and how will you turn it around?”

Hayes rattled off the UNLV athletic department’s accomplishments before Jessup took over as university president in November 2014. He mentioned the men’s basketball team’s four-year streak of advancing to the NCAA Tournament from 2010 to 2013, and the football team’s first bowl game in 13 years during the 2013 season.

The men’s basketball team is in the midst of its worst season ever under first-year coach Marvin Menzies. UNLV football has won seven games since coach Tony Sanchez took over two seasons ago.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’re saying,” Jessup said to Hayes. “The problem that we have now is that I stepped in with a brand new football coach, rebuilding from ground zero, literally. I’m here for a year, and now we got a new basketball coach. We’re rebuilding around that coach. Unfortunately, that happened around the two revenue-generating sports. That had a dramatic effect on athletics from a financial point of view.”

Jessup brought up Sanchez’s success in raising $17 million for a new football training facility and the improved APR scores as positives during his tenure. UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy reminded the Board of Regents about the success of the other sports, and the seven postseason teams from the first half of the school year.

In September, UNLV officials told the Board of Regents the budget shortfall would be about $3.5 million.

“We can’t keep having this conversation,” Regent Cedric Crear said of UNLV’s budget issues. “I know winning is a huge component of it, no doubt about it. But it’s time to do something about it.”

Kunzer-Murphy said not having a $1 million game during the 2016 football season hurt the income. UNLV football is expected to get big payouts for playing Ohio State in September and Southern California in 2018.

Regent Jason Geddes doesn’t want UNLV officials to count on future earnings to get out of the financial hole, and asked them to get the money from other accounts to clear the red area.

“I can see this going from a $4 million deficit to a $10 million deficit in a few years,” Geddes said. “I need to see a plan based on actual numbers and not what we hope to get.”