Jim Livengood admits he’s not a CPA. But he claims to know something about numbers and how to work with budgets.
Livengood, who spent the past 16 years keeping Arizona’s athletic program operating in the black, became UNLV’s athletic director Thursday. One of his primary duties will be to stop the fiscal bleeding in the Rebels’ athletic program. The school, which spends approximately $24 million on athletics annually, is expected to have a $500,000 deficit at the end of the current fiscal year.
”What we did every day was monitor where we were financially,” Livengood said of how he controlled Arizona’s athletic operating budget of approximately $45 million. ”Every school is different in its funding, and before I can tell you what my specific plan is (for UNLV), I have to make an internal assessment of what they have been doing. I have to see where the money’s coming from for athletics and where it’s going.”
According to UNLV president Neal Smatresk, Livengood, 64, will be given a four- or five-year contract, though Smatresk wouldn’t specify the exact terms. During that time, Livengood will be expected to get the athletic department operating in a more businesslike fashion and eliminate any deficit.
”We need to have a real serious business model for athletics,” Smatresk said. ”Football has been losing between $3 million and $4 million a year, and we simply can’t continue to sustain those kind of losses. We need to put people in the seats in our football stadium, and that means bringing a coach in who can win.”
Balancing the department’s books is high on Livengood’s list of priorities. He said that while running the athletic department as a business sounds good in theory, he said the uniqueness of college athletics doesn’t bring with it a cut-and-dried formula for financial success.
”Here’s what I mean; UNLV has 17 sports. In essence, and football’s not there yet, there are two that are profit centers, with (men’s) basketball no question as one of them. If a business had 17 departments and two were profit centers and 15 weren’t, what would that business do? It would say, ‘We need to cut back,’ or, ‘We need to eliminate.’ ”
Livengood said it will be his responsibility to quickly cultivate new revenue streams.
”You develop relationships and work on asking people to give,” Livengood said of how he managed to raise $150 million at Arizona.
Livengood said his challenge at Arizona was to operate in the black without any state funding or student fees. UNLV gets funding from the state of Nevada for athletics (approximately $7 million, according to former University of Nevada System Chancellor Jim Rogers). But Smatresk said there’s no guarantee that funding will continue.