LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State athletics balanced its Fiscal Year 2019 budget, but it didn’t come without dipping into hard-earned reserves and taxing the individual programs.
Director of Athletics Mario Moccia believes that the addition of three football guarantee games this year will provide some breathing room in FY20.
It was the ninth time in the past 10 years New Mexico State’s athletics budget has balanced, but it shrinks an already thin margin for error
“Our goal every year is to balance the budget, but also to build up the reserves as best as you can in case there is a rainy day,” Moccia said. “We have cleaned up some of the sins of the past, but the margin for error is unbelievably thin, and we have had some good fortune.”
In order to balance the FY19 budget, Moccia’s department needed to dip into individual program fundraising accounts and department reserves to the tune of $1.8 million, of which $500,000 came out of department savings, nearly depleting the three-year old rainy day fund.
Administration taxed team improvement accounts $790,269 and the Aggie Athletic Club $491,498 to help the department make budget. The team improvement accounts are meant to help individual sports meet their budgets.
“In a perfect world, those funds should be for enhancements for the programs,” Moccia said. “Not the existence of the programs, but now we are reliant on individual giving to programs to allow them to exist.”
Moccia’s $18.7 million budget in Fiscal Year 2019 was bolstered by substantial increases in ticket sales and fundraising revenues, but it was not enough to avoid drawing from monies he would rather spend enhancing the athletics department rather than simply surviving.
“I guess that is my biggest concern is that our good fortune runs out, but we have made some of our own good fortune,” Moccia said. “If team performance takes a downturn, it could have a significant impact on ticket sales. I still firmly believe that there is much room to grow with the Aggie Athletic Club.”
FOOTBALL GUARANTEES: Last football season, NMSU’s first as an independent football program upon being booted from the Sun Belt Conference, it played two guarantee football games (at Minnesota and BYU) that totaled $1.5 million. But NMSU will collect $3.8 million this season for games at Washington State ($600,000), Alabama ($1.7 million) and Mississippi ($1.5 million).
“We have to be strategic in our games going forward when you look at scheduling buy games,” Moccia said. “We talk about what that number is and what we need to go get it or exceed it.”
With the increase in football guarantee money in FY20, NMSU’s athletic department budget increased by $2 million to $20,756,229.
INSTITUTIONAL/STATE SUPPORT … AND BEER: Moccia presented a revised proposal for state appropriations last October that the Board of Regents approved.
As a result, NMSU athletics received $3,849,094 from the state for FY20, which was a $703,294 increase from last year.
But the university transfer from the Instruction and General fund to the athletics department was reduced by $200,000 from last year to $4,179,917.
According to a statement to the Sun-News from university leadership, “Because athletics received additional funding from the state this year, it was an opportunity to reduce the amount the university needed to transfer to the athletics budget. The university athletics team has done a great job and our hope is that with additional increases in revenue, including ticket sales, donations and other contributions, that unit will become less and less reliant on future budget transfers.”
Moccia said the school has been “pleasantly surprised” by early revenue returns after the first year of its licensing from Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale, an award-winning beer made and distributed by Bosque Brewing Company. But how many new streams of revenue are realistic to expect?
“It showed there was a revenue source coming in, but is there a million ideas like that out there?” Moccia asked. “No. We are trying to look every rock and be as creative as we can.”
The athletics budget also includes $3.3 million from student fees for FY20.
According to data provided by New Mexico State, NMSU ranks 44th of 52 Group of 5 athletic programs in terms of institutional support (student fees, scholarships, university funds) at $12.9 million. The average among Group of 5 institutions is $19.8 million. UTEP receives $18.6 million and New Mexico receives $9.9 million, according to NMSU’s data.
“I just think that illustrates where we are as far as institutional support compared to our peers,” Moccia said. “All of these schools, that is how they are funded. That is how they are existing.”
AMONG THE FY20 EXPENSES: The New Mexico State athletics debt to main campus will dip under $3 million following the 2020 year.
New Mexico State athletics paid $156,416 toward the debt last year and the amount increases to $462,671 in FY20. The debt is scheduled to be paid off in 2026.
New Mexico State athletics will pay cost of attendance for the first time in 2020, with male athletes from football and men’s basketball receiving $500. All women’s programs on campus will receive cost of attendance, though the payouts to each athlete will be up to each coach’s discretion.
New Mexico State athletics will pay $50,000 to the NMSU Foundation toward the buyout of former football coach Hal Mumme, who was fired in 2008. The athletic department will pay $50,000 toward the $480,918 buyout for the next five years and $20,000 in 2025.