Jim Rogers, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, has not backed off his concerns about the financial health of UNLV’s athletic department, but numbers the Board of Regents presented to the school last month present an improving picture.
The records show a 29 percent increase in private contributions since athletic director Mike Hamrick took over in August 2003 through the 2005-06 academic year. Records for this academic year will not be computed until summer, but Hamrick said he expected a boost from the men’s basketball team’s Sweet 16 run.
The $6.34 million in private contributions in the 2005-06 academic year also was much higher than the $3.34 million that UNR reported over the same period. Hamrick said the amount UNLV raised did not include $609,000 in trade-outs such as hotel rooms.
UNLV reported $2.98 million in donations to the men’s basketball program and $914,057 to football for 2005-06. UNR received $1.57 million for men’s basketball and $53,900 for football.
Though not part of this report, a source who has seen the information said UNLV raised more money through private contributions for its athletic department that academic year than every other school in the Mountain West Conference. Brigham Young was second at about $5 million, and the average amount in the conference was roughly $3.5 million.
Financial reporting practices, however, could vary from school to school, so an exact comparison might not be easy. Regardless, Hamrick said the numbers UNLV reported show a program moving forward.
"Four years ago, we had 11 or 12 different groups fund-raising for UNLV athletics, and we’ve gotten more organized," Hamrick said. "We integrated all of those into our Rebel Athletic Fund. It’s the standard within the industry, and our numbers that were presented at the Board of Regents meeting proved that, even though we’ve got a long way to go, we’ve made significant gains."
Longtime booster Cliff Findlay said many UNLV fans don’t understand how far down the athletic program was before making recent gains.
He blamed previous mismanagement for the athletic department’s prior problems when it routinely ran a deficit.
"I think there were definitely gaps with the communication between the community and the athletic department," Findlay said. "It had been a real mess. There was turmoil for 10 or 15 years.
"If you look at major universities, they don’t fluctuate. You have peaks and valleys, but you don’t go from a national championship (1990 in men’s basketball) down to where we were. There were bad decisions and bad choices, and some of the people running the athletic department didn’t do a good job."
But, Findlay said, the athletic department is on the right track.
"Mike has done a magnificent job," Findlay said. "He hired the right guy in (men’s basketball coach) Lon Kruger, and (football coach) Mike Sanford, from what everybody tells me, will get it done.
"I’ve had people call me and ask how they can get involved in the athletic department, and I turn all those over to Mike (Hamrick)."
However, Rogers said he’s been waiting by the phone to get calls for help.
"The communication between Mike Hamrick and many donors, as I understand it, isn’t very good," Rogers said. "That doesn’t make me very happy. There aren’t a lot of people around raising more money for the university, and the next call I get from them will be the first one."
Rogers said he never turns down the opportunity to contribute. He said he contributes $20,000 annually toward Kruger’s salary and $4,000 a month to help pay Brad Rothermel, the former UNLV athletic director who is the special adviser to Hamrick. Also, Rogers said he spent about $500,000 for the construction of the softball stadium — Eller Media Stadium at Jim Rogers Field.
"I’m a little mystified because I’m the easiest touch in the world, and if I’m not getting phone calls now, the hard touches aren’t getting them, either," Rogers said.
But Hamrick said the athletic department has communicated effectively with donors. He said private contributions were responsible for new football video equipment that cost almost $300,000 and improvement of the soccer field for $350,000.
Such improvement projects, Hamrick said, resulted in a budget deficit of $686,035 for the 2005-06 academic year. Even so, UNLV’s reserve fund is at $1.45 million, thanks largely to a $1.04 million surplus in Hamrick’s first year.
"We’ve had meetings with several other donors that we’re soliciting for major gifts, and we hope in the next two or three months to announce some major, major gifts," Hamrick said.
If the announcements come about, they could help answer Rogers’ questions about what kind of fundraising plan Hamrick has in place. In fact, the state’s athletic directors are expected to present detailed plans to the regents’ audit committee on June 21 and 22.
Regent Steve Sisolak of Las Vegas chairs the committee.
"I’m looking for some sense of what we’re doing in fundraising for athletics and what our long-term plans are for raising soft money," Sisolak said, referring to private donations. "There obviously is a lot of community buy-in with private money. I want to get an idea it’s not just revenue and state money, but there’s a plan for the future with soft money."
Perhaps Hamrick’s plan will include a way to increase the athletic budget from the current $24.83 million. It was at $21.05 million his first year.
Rogers said he knows UNLV never will be in the class of schools such as Southern California ($65 million) and Ohio State (more than $100 million) but hopes for far more than the current budget amount.
"I agree that we need to strive to continue to increase our budget," Hamrick said. "Every institution in the country aspires to that, to generate more resources. And I believe with the success that we had in basketball and the success that I feel in the next two to three years we’ll have in football that those resources will come in, and it will give us a better opportunity to increase our budget."
UNLV ATHLETIC BUDGET
|Direct state support||$5,202,171||$5,434,217||$4,669,146|
|Direct university support||$1,681,762||$1,829,703||$2,118,346|