Monday, July 10, 2006

A "Jihad" Against UNO Football?

Husker Information Minister Jim Rose jumped into the unrest over UNO Maverick athletics this morning on KFAB. While lobbing softballs at Regent Chuck Hassebrook over his proposal to disband UNO's football program, Rose denied that there was any "jihad" (as he put it) against UNO; it was merely a suggestion based on the finances. At first glance, Hassebrook and Rose look like they might have their facts straight for once...but upon further investigation, the evidence just doesn't hold water.

Friday afternoon, UNO Beef Club president Ben Titus reported that UNO's football program suffered a $739,783 loss in 2004-05, a fact jumped on by Hassebrook. The same source, the Department of Education's Office of Post-Secondary Education, reported that UNO's income for that same season was just over $291,037. That number just doesn't seem to be valid. That figure puts them dead-last in terms of income in the North Central Conference, not to mention in the state of Nebraska. Nebraska-Kearney's income that season was $640,715 and Wayne State's football income was $527,483. UNO's attendance was more than double UNK's that season with over 38,000 fans. Per the figures reported to the US government, UNO only earned $7.66 per fan per game. Of course, ticket prices that season were $10 and $15 per game.

That's just ticket revenue. There also is advertising, sponsorships, concessions, and donations that also seem to be accounted for. Even if there were a significant number of free student admissions, these numbers still don't seem correct. Former UNO coach Sandy Buda was interviewed on KXSP-590 AM in Omaha today and reported that when he first started to sell signage at Al Caniglia Field, the funds were not credited to the football program or even the athletic program, but rather to a University general account. In other words, UNO football likely is bringing in much more money than the official records show. UNO's expenses seem in line with their counterparts in the North Central Conference, so the debits look reasonable. And while it's been nearly 10 years since I worked on accounting systems, it sure looks like a lot of the credits resulting from UNO football aren't being credited to football or perhaps even the athletic department.

Bottom line is that right now, nobody seems to know where the money is and where it went. That's a situation that needs to get rectified and soon. Hassebrook's proposal doesn't seem to be going away, and the involvement of Jim Rose in this debate isn't going to help either. (I'll let the conspiracy theorists discuss why he's involved...)

The truly sad part of this debate is that for all of the administrative problems plaging UNO athletics, UNO's athletic program is doing well on the field. UNO finished last season 3rd in the Division II Director's Cup after winning 2 national championships last season. Football is expected to be nationally ranked next season, and Mav hockey features an academic All-American and hopefully a returning Hobey Baker Finalist.

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