Random Thoughts – Volume IV

When a $20 million deficit is good news

The Daily Camera ran a story this week about CU projecting a deficit of around $20 million for this fiscal year (2020-21).

Colorado’s athletics department is projecting a drop of about $43 million in revenue from last year, while forecasting a deficit of nearly $20 million for the 2021 fiscal year.

CU closed the 2020 fiscal year last summer with $89.987 million in revenue and $86.291 million in expenses. The challenges of the pandemic have led to CU’s budget remaining fluid throughout the 2021 fiscal year, which began in July. CU is currently budgeting for $65 million in expenses and $46-47 million in revenue.

Most of CU’s year-over-year revenue drop can be attributed to ticket sales and conference distribution. Between football and men’s basketball, CU had $23.25 million in ticket revenue for 2019-20, but hasn’t been able to host fans this year. In addition, athletic director Rick George said the Pac-12 distribution this year could be 50-60 percent of the $32.6 million CU got last year.

“That gets your revenue down significantly, just in those two numbers; there’s $40 million,” George said. “But, we’ve done a good job in the other areas. Our fundraising is going really well, and our partnership with Nike and Learfield IMG for Buffalo Sports Properties for multimedia rights has been good and solid. So we’re hanging in there.”

Put into context, the CU athletic department is, indeed, “hanging in there”.

While it’s not exactly comparing apples to apples, seeing how the rest of the Pac-12 is weathering the pandemic financial storm is certainly noteworthy:

Washington State ... From the Spokane Spokesman-Review, quoting Washington State athletic director Pat Chun: “The final number is still nebulous because we’ve got to get through basketball season and I think we’ve estimated publicly I think between $28-30 (million), I think around $30 million“;

Utah … From the Salt Lake City Tribune, quoting Utah athletic director Mark Harlan: “We’re sorting through that with our financial team and the conference’s financial team, but the number should be in that $35 million range. It may be a little more or less than that as we calculate it”;

Arizona … From ArizonaDesertSwarm.com, quoting Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke: Heeke said Arizona expects to have a $45 million deficit from this fiscal year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (which includes a $7.5 million buyout of Kevin Sumlin’s contract);

Oregon … From The Oregonian, quoting Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens, who believes Oregon’s deficit is  “tracking more toward $65 million” (The Ducks have one of the largest budgets in the conference);

UCLA and California … I couldn’t find updates on the Bruins and the Bears for the 2020-21 projected deficits, but the California state schools were already bleeding red before the pandemic. Numbers released last July for the previous fiscal year (2018-19) had Cal ($19.1 million deficit) and UCLA ($18.9 million deficit) as carrying the second and third largest discrepancies in revenue in the country … and that was before UCLA lost its contract with Under Armour.

So … while no one is doing cartwheels in the Champions Center over the thought of being $20 million in the red come June 30th and the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year, it could be worse.

It could be a lot worse.

One of the reasons why CU athletic director Rick George is thought of so highly, and one of the reasons why he is considered in some circles to be a candidate to replace Larry Scott as the next Pac-12 commissioner.

Lest We Forget … 

While there are those in the national media are discounting CU’s second-place finish in the Pac-12 South in 2020, and are already comfortable slotting the Buffs back in fifth place for their 2021 projections, Colorado fans still have every reason to celebrate the winning season, the bowl bid, and the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

In a 4-2 season, with only have of the normal games played in a fall, the Buffs still managed to set 16 school records (and tie two others).

Some of the notable achievements from 2020 …

— Running back Jarek Broussard — 

Of the 18 new records put into the CU annals this year, Broussard had a hand in 13 of them, including:

  • Most rushing yards, first game of career (187 v. UCLA, besting the 174 yards Charlie Davis had against LSU in 1971);
  • Most rushing yards, first four games of the season (733; old record: Rashaan Salaam, 727, 1994);
  • Most rushing yards, quarter (155 v. Arizona, second quarter, in only eight attempts; old record: 131, Eric Bieniemy v. Oregon State, 1988);
  • Most rushing plays of 50 yards or longer, game (3, v. Arizona. Several players had done it twice before, but never three times);
  • Most 100-yard rushing games to start a career (4; old record: 3, by Charlie Davis in 1971).

Linebacker Nate Landman

  • Most third down stops, game (4, v. San Diego State and against Arizona. Tied existing record … Linebacker Carson Wells also tied the record with four third down stops against Arizona);
  • Most fourth down stops, career (8; old record: 7, by Matt Russell, 1993-96; and Jordon Dizon, 2004-07)

Quarterback Sam Noyer

  • Most Touchdowns scored rushing, thrown passing, game (2 and 2 v. Stanford; tied record set six times previously)

Team Records

  • Longest time without a fumble lost, start of the season (193:31 – first four games, first fumble lost in the first quarter of the fourth game; old record: 188:01 – first four games of the 2011 season, first fumble also lost in first quarter of game four);
  • Most Consecutive Seasons with at least one game without a turnover: (11 – 2010-2020, current: old record: 10 seasons – 1998-2007)

Other Oddball notes from the 2020 season … 

  • CU shutout opponents in the second half of consecutive games (San Diego State; Arizona) for the first time since 2002 (Baylor; Texas Tech);
  • The Buffs evened their record at 5-5 in Pac-12 openers with the 48-42 win over UCLA;
  • The six game season represented the fewest games CU has played in a fall since 1932 (when the Buffs went 2-4);
  • Against Stanford, CU had the Conference Players of the Week on both offense (Sam Noyer) and defense (Nate Landman). The double honor represented only the 8th time in the past 60 years in which CU had both the offensive and defensive conference players o the week for the same game;
  • The 35 points the Buffs scored in the season opener represented the most CU had scored in the first half of a game dating back to at least 1923 (records before then are incomplete);
  • The number of days between CU’s final game of the 2019 season v. Utah and the 2020 season opener v. UCLA … 342;
  • The 554 who were allowed to attend the UCLA game represented the lowest attendance at a CU game since Teddy Roosevelt was president (subsequent home games, of course, had official attendance of 0). For the 2019 season, CU averaged 49,573 per game, which represents 98.8% of Folsom Field’s 50,183 capacity).

A Few Notes on Boyle’s Buffs … 

There are those who won’t consider the 2020-21 CU men’s basketball season a success until or unless Boyle’s Buffs not only make it into the NCAA tournament, but win a game or two.

Fair enough.

The Buffs have been good under Tad Boyle, there’s no denying it. But, as has been written in this space before, we are in the Golden Age of Colorado basketball, and it’s not even close.

You already know that …

  • The Buffs have had 11 20-win seasons in school history, with seven of those coming in the past 11 seasons under Tad Boyle (which is likely this year to become 12 20-win seasons in school history, with eight of the 12 coming in Boyle’s tenure);
  • Boyle owns all four of CU’s top winning seasons, and five of its top six; and
  • That McKinley Wright is poised to become the first player in Pac-12 history with over 1,600 points scored, 600 rebounds, and 600 assists. Wright is already over 1,600 points scored, and posted his 600th assist in the Washington State game Tuesday night. He is just 18 rebounds shy of setting the new standard, and may reach the milestone during CU’s remaining four games of its five-game homestand.

But, did you know that …

  • With the home win over Washington State, the Buffs are 10-0 all-time against the Cougars at home (16-6 overall). Not quite as impressive as CU’s all-time 10-0 record at home against Oregon, but impressive nonetheless; and
  • Over the past 24 months, which is to say since February 1, 2019, no team in the Pac-12 has posted more wins than has Colorado. The Buffs are 46-19 (.708) over the past two seasons. The only Pac-12 team with a better winning percentage over that same span is Oregon, (45-15, .750).

The CU basketball team is not yet a lock for the NCAA tournament (it is still January), but TeamRankings. com currently gives CU a 98.0% chance of making the Dance … which I’ll take.

The Buffs have been frustrating to watch at times this year, but the Buffs are 7-3 in Pac-12 play, joining last year’s team as the only CU squads to open Pac-12 play with a 7-3 mark through ten games.

Last year, the Buffs went on to post a 10-4 record in conference games, only to lose the final four games of the regular season to finish 10-8, and miss out on a first round Pac-12 tournament bye for the first time.

Will this year’s team continue its fine play? Or is another swoon in the offing?

We’ll have to wait and see …


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