MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The University of Minnesota football team must fill the Metrodome like never before to cover the athletic department's mounting bills and overcome its existing deficit.
Two months ago university officials dared hope that an increase in football ticket sales would help reduce the existing athletic department debt. But lofty early projections for football ticket sales are already off.
On the first day of classes earlier this month, men's athletic director Tom Moe told his coaches and that he was cutting their sport budgets by 6 percent.
While Moe said he's optimistic the university athletic department will meet its budget for this year, this much is certain: The health of the university's athletic budget in coming years is clearly linked to football's ability to sell more tickets.
Men's basketball and men's hockey as revenue sources are nearly maxed out.
The Gophers men's and women's athletic departments are separate, but they now share a common budget. Only three sports -- football, men's basketball and men's hockey -- make money and, according to the unaudited budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, the departments started this school year with a combined deficit of $637,989.
Football is the lone revenue sport that has plenty of room for additional revenue, provided the university can build on its recent success and attract more fans. The Gophers routinely play to crowds with at least 20,000 empty seats in the 64,172-seat Metrodome.
Hopes for an immediate upturn in football revenue have already been dashed. The Gophers opened the season with a dreadful performance in a loss at Toledo. Then came a lower-than-projected crowd for the home opener the following week against Louisiana-Lafayette. And then the postponement of the Sept. 15 game against Baylor, which led to the financial necessity of scheduling Division-IAA opponent Murray State on Oct. 27.
The Gophers need to sell tickets, because the school generates virtually no other revenue from their football games. While most other college football programs bring in money from parking, suites, premium seating and signage, the only additional money the Gophers receive is 30 percent of the net concessions -- about $370,000 last year.
With an average ticket sales of slightly more than 47,000 last year, the Gophers brought in about $850,000 in revenue each home game. But the Gophers lag far behind their conference rivals in football revenue. A typical Michigan home football game generates about $4 million in ticket sales alone, with additional concession sales. Ohio State and Penn State also generate more than $3.5 million each home game from ticket sales alone.
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