Published Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 8:45 pm / Updated at 9:32 pm
Athletics
Bigger venues fuel growth in Husker sports revenue

LINCOLN — Nebraska is projecting a 9 percent increase in sports revenue for the coming year, which will make Husker athletics close to a $93 million enterprise annually.

The budget for fiscal 2013-14 is going through final approval, Husker Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst said Wednesday, but the expected revenue hikes of about $7.6 million are solid based on three things.

“Increased seating in football, increased seating in volleyball and increased seating in basketball,” he said. “It's going to be great come fall when we start setting all-time attendance records.”

Here are the numbers:

Ľ Football: Memorial Stadium is in the final stages of a $63.5 million East Stadium expansion. That will boost the listed capacity to about 87,000 with attendance expected at 92,000. The stadium has been sold out for 325 consecutive games since 1962. Ticket seekers can ask for placement on a waitlist.

Ľ Volleyball: Next month comes a move from the 4,030-seat NU Coliseum to the Devaney Center, remodeled at $20.5 million for volleyball to about 6,500 seats with potential for more for premier match-ups. The waitlist is closed until 2014 for a program with 181 straight sellouts, the longest streak in any American women's college sport.

Ľ Basketball: The men and women will move from the 13,595-seat Devaney Center to the 15,200-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena. On May 3, public tickets for men's basketball sold out — a first in school history.

Nebraska's expected budget of $93 million puts it about 25th nationally (Texas is first at about $170 million) and in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten (Ohio State is first in the league and second nationally at about $150 million).

Where NU ranks financially is hardly front of mind for Eichorst.

“You've got to take care of your own business,” he said. “Every place is different because of the number of sports they have, the cities they are in and how far they have to travel.

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“We stay within our means, but we're also able to be progressive.”

Eichorst, who succeeded Tom Osborne in January after 18 months as A.D. at Miami (Fla.), was pleased when first shown the NU athletic department's books.

“We're in really good shape financially,” Eichorst said. “Supporters of this university would be proud of how we have managed our business.”

The new boss's style isn't to hand out across-the-board increases or decreases in budgets and salaries. Each sport and coach will be evaluated case by case.

Will each of Nebraska's 24 sports get a budget increase this year?

“To the extent they need it,” Eichorst said. “I don't have any moratorium on increasing anyone's budget if they need it. I'll be supportive of needs, not luxuries. After needs are met, we'll look at other strategic spending.”

Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman recently hinted that the Huskers may add sports soon, likely on the women's side. Eichorst said he hasn't discussed it with Perlman.

“I certainly don't want to drop any sports,” Eichorst said. “If we were going to add, we'd probably look on the women's side. But I like where we are right now.”

Nebraska's goal is to support all sports well enough to compete successfully, first in the Big Ten, then regionally and nationally.

“I think we have a little work to do there yet in some of our sports,” Eichorst said. “You've got to be fair to your student-athletes. You've got to give them a chance.”

So if Nebraska sponsors a sport, it plans to win?

“Darn right,” Eichorst said.

Other athletic department notes and quotes from Eichorst:

Ľ Personnel: This week's hiring of Steve Waterfield from Miami as senior associate A.D. for performance and strategic research “filled a need.” Are other hires imminent? “As I assess our needs, we'll add people or maybe play to people's strengths differently. It will be important to go through the fall when the heavy lifting starts to get to know everyone better.”

Ľ Facilities: “When you talk about bells and whistles, we're not at the bottom, and we're certainly not at the top. But functionally, I don't know if anybody has better facilities than Nebraska.”

Ľ Booster relations: Eichorst has made 70 to 75 public appearances in his first six months. “I've really enjoyed talking to groups about where we've been, where we are and where we're going. I feel confident that they trust us with their donations to strategically spend them the right way.”

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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