Fresno State president Joseph Castro is funneling another $1.6 million in university support to the Bulldogs' athletic department so that new athletic director Terry Tumey will have a balanced budget to work with in his first year.
But that commitment only highlights a daunting task for Tumey and the university, which must cover a $2 million shortfall in 2017-'18 in a department that has struggled to keep pace with the escalating costs of college athletics.
With that additional $1.6 million, university support in the 2018-19 budget that will go to the Athletics Corporation for approval this week is up to $19.1 million.
In 2013-14, the year Castro was appointed, it was $9.6 million.
"There will be additional support and then President Castro and I will be working very closely with Terry Tumey going forward," said Debbie Adishian-Astone, the university's vice president for administration and associate vice president for auxiliary services.
"There may be things still that we can look at, but for the most part we have to increase the revenues and not necessarily be reliant on additional university support. Although we are getting additional university support in order to balance the budget, the university is also investing in many areas on the university side, on the academic side. President Castro is always very balanced, appropriately, in investing in all areas of the university to support our students."
The 2018-19 athletic budget will come in around $42 million, up from $37.6 million.
The increase does not stem from administrative overhead, but a number of factors including coaching salary increases, the addition of assistant coaches in football and women's water polo, nutrition and supplemental meals for student-athletes in all sports, maintenance of facilities and inflation.
It also has more set aside for performance bonuses, an area it was short in 2017-18 with football coach Jeff Tedford raking in on-field bonuses in a 10-4 season that included regular-season wins ($250,000), a West Division title in the Mountain West Conference ($150,000), a Hawaii Bowl victory ($200,000) and a Mountain West coach of the year award ($50,000).
"That's a good problem to have," Adishian-Astone said. "That's not a negative. Some of it is we're budgeting for higher bonuses anticipating team success, which is great."
The Athletic Corporation budget committee had cut a deficit to $1.6 million from $2.8 million, but further reduction would likely have required cutting into the budgets of the Bulldogs' 21 sports programs. At its June 11 meeting, the committee voted to forward that budget for approval with the stipulation it first meet with Castro to close that gap through additional university support or a loan from the university.
"With Terry being our new athletics director we wanted to make sure that he has a solid approved budget with all the revenue sources there," Adishian-Astone said. "But if we need to go beyond that $1.6 million then we will need to look at other strategies and a loan is possibly one of those strategies."
The budget, Adishian-Astone said, will be closely monitored. That $2 million deficit from 2017-18 comes in a year the actual dollars in university support has continued to increase to record levels:
2014-15: $13.4 million
2015-16: $17.0 million
2016-17: $18.3 million
2017-18: $19.9 million (projected; final number expected by August)
San Diego State and San Jose State, the other California State University schools in the Mountain West Conference, received $15.6 million and $10.9 million in university support, according to data compiled by USA Today. Both, however, receive more funding than Fresno State in student fees.
Castro in an interview in May said he would like to start to reduce university support and emphasized the need to enhance revenue and investment in Bulldogs' athletics. Also, eliminating sports or raising student fees for athletics is not under consideration.
"I would like to inspire more people to give and I do think that we need to broaden our base of support and have more gifts at different levels," Castro said. "We have so many generous supporters right now, I'd like to expand on it and have more families involved. Even if it's at a more modest level it still all accumulates.
"I think Coach Tedford for example has inspired a lot of new people to come see the games. Coach (Troy) Steiner has done the same with wrestling and I think it gives us the opportunity to engage more and more people, new people, and some younger generations that will get excited and want to be involved. My hope is over time we'll see that investment increase. That's a critical part of this challenge, to have that happen."
That will fall to Tumey, who comes to Fresno State from the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps colleges. He will be introduced at a news conference on Monday at the Save Mart Center.
"There is no doubt we need to increase revenues, both from donor support as well as our gate receipts, our sponsorship revenue," Adishian-Astone said. "We've got to look at everything to see what we can increase. We can't keep trending this way.
"We're watching it. We know what we need to do and we'll be working obviously very closely with Terry and with the Bulldog Foundation board. What are the opportunities? When we look at these revenue line items what else can we be doing?"