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Ponton: GSU sports programs lost $400K in 2017-18 academic year

By Rabin Williams
On April 4, 2019

Overhead view of Eddie G. Robinson Stadium. GSU Athletics/Courtesy photo

College athletics are central to the university experience, but not many students or community members know about the finances of athletic programs at Grambling State University. 

“This past year we’ve had a budget deficit of approximately $400,000 dollars,” GSU Athletic Director Dr. David Ponton told the The Gramblinite. 

Ponton said the university is aiming to makes its sports programming revenue neutral. 

“Our attempt is to break even at the end of the season,” said Ponton. “However, when there other student-related priorities around campus involving not just athletes, then the department will not be fully funded.” 

Earlier this year Ponton told KTBS that the financial support the university receives from the state decreased from $32 million to $13 million. With a usual budget of $9-10 million dollars, Grambling spends more money on sports programs than they take in. 

With those budgets the school maintains athletic needs and services. Money is spent for all athletics on transportation, travel, uniforms, books, scholarships, equipment, medical insurance and other items resulting in the school spending more money than what they make year to year. 

“When you lose money like that it puts a bigger stream on the university because they have to cover that,” Ponton said. 

Essentially, athletic finances include all money brought and spent by the university in support of athletics programs.

Some of the finances that go toward funding athletics come from donations, profits and games won during the time of the season such as regular season, tournament play and championship games. 

Winning can also drive revenue because winning brings more people to the games home or away and people love to see good teams play against each other. 

The schools also have revenue sponsorships in which the school will advertise slots that are open for sponsors who pay Grambling for the exposure. Other revenues include tickets, parking and concessions. 

In addition, student fees in the amount of $100 per student, per semester are paid along with tuition. That means in the fall semester alone the total take from 5,205 students enrolled at Grambling State University equaled $520,500. 

Terrance Bradford, an assistant professor in Grambling’s College of Business, said finances are split between sports, like football that see higher revenues and could turn a profit, and others, such as bowling, that are unlikely to ever generate any revenue. 

“The revenue sports help fund the other sports that don’t generate revenue,” Bradford said.  

Revenue sports both spend and bring in a large amount of money each year. Being a non-power five school, makes it very difficult for Grambling to see a profit from any of its sports programs.

In fact, football, the most popular sport at GSU posted an $800,000 loss in the 2016-17 season, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. Altogether the Louisiana Legislative Auditor reports Grambling posted a $2 million loss for all sports combined that year. 

In contrast, Louisiana State University’s football program made a profit of $56.1 million over the same time period, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. 

However, LSU sports programs as a whole only made a little of $16 million from a gross revenue of $147.74 million. The only other sports to make a profit at LSU that year were men’s basketball and baseball. 

Grambling is a member institution of the NCAA which means Grambling pays dues but also receives a distribution based of the number of sports that are at the school. 

Ponton said he is hopeful that in the upcoming year Grambling will be able to narrow the deficit. 

“With the upcoming season approaching and the excellent staff they will have,” Ponton said. “All of the department funding where it should be.” 

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Contributing writer Kamau Dangerfield Tucker contributed to this report. 

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