Football success helps Mocs improve bottom line

Football success helps Mocs improve bottom line

November 26th, 2009 by John Frierson in Sports - College

Staff photo by Angela Lewis UTC coach Russ Huesman and his Mocs posted a winning season this year.

Staff photo by Angela Lewis UTC coach Russ Huesman...

A record for football ticket sales and a winning season didn't produce a financial windfall for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but revenue was up more than $100,000.

According to figures provided by UTC, total football net revenue for this season -- which includes all season ticket and single-game sales -- was $270,045. That's a big jump from 2008's revenue of $168,448.

"It's probably not as grandiose as some people thought," UTC athletic director Rick Hart said of the increased revenue.

The two seasons couldn't have been more different on the field or in the stands at Finley Stadium. In 2008, the last season under former coach Rodney Allison, the Mocs went 1-11 and the average attendance for UTC's six home games was 5,748.

This season, which concluded last Saturday at Alabama, the Mocs finished 6-5 in Russ Huesman's first season as coach and Huesman earned Southern Conference coach of the year honors. A crowd of 14,002 showed up for the opener and the average attendance for the five home games was 10,503 -- the fifth-highest in the SoCon and 31st in the FCS.

Using numerous preseason promotions, UTC set a season-ticket sales record at Finley Stadium of 2,527 packages sold. The previous record was 2,300, set in 1997, the debut season for the stadium.

The Mocs also had a season-long promotion for single-game sales. Customers could purchase general admission seats online for $5 by using a "RESTORE" coupon code.

"Our customers are our lifeblood and we've tried to please them," associate athletic director Matt Pope said. "We've tried to make football accommodating and family friendly and pocket-book friendly. So we've put more people in the seats by lowering ticket prices and with the 'RESTORE' code."

Pope said UTC will take a look at ticket prices for next season and it may continue the $5 promotion.

Just as this season was about beginning the rebuilding of the program, it was also about rebuilding a fan base that had lost interest in recent years as the program endured one losing season after another.

Even though money is tighter than ever at UTC, which came up $229,673.89 short of balancing its budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year, Hart said the bottom line wasn't the most important factor this football season.

"With the promotions and working with groups and things, our top priority was really to get people exposed to UTC football and not necessarily worrying as much about the bottom line as it relates to generating as much revenue as possible," he said. "Get people in the building, get them to experience our product and then try and build a fan base."

UTC would have balanced its budget in the previous fiscal year, for the third year in a row, if statewide cuts hadn't forced the athletic department to slash nearly $178,000 from its budget at the start of the year and another $68,000 mid-year.

The projected budget for this fiscal year is $8,007,071, which included football revenue of $540,000 from ticket sales and the Alabama game, which brought in a $400,000 guarantee. That's been exceeded, as was most everyone's expectations for what the Mocs could do on the field in 2009.