Most NCAA Division I-A schools lose money on athletics, but the school with the smallest athletic budget in the Pacific-10 Conference recently enjoyed its second straight banner year on the balance sheet.
Washington State announced on Monday that Cougar athletics showed a net profit of nearly $262,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30. In WSU history, only last year's $324,000 take ranks higher.
Asked how the Cougars manage to make money in tiny, isolated Pullman, Associate Athletic Director Anne McCoy laughs and says, "We're magicians! Honestly, I think we really try hard to spend what we think we need to spend, not what we'd like to spend, or what other schools spend. We're on such a tightrope with finances."
WSU's $21 million athletic budget is expected to remain about the same for the 2003-04 school year. The Cougars had expressed hope they would top last year's record profit, but McCoy says earlier-than-usual payments for summer school scholarships this year (the athletic department pays the school for all athletic scholarships) impacted the bottom line.
The Cougars benefited over the past year from record television revenue, football ticket sales and Pac-10 bowl shares. However, WSU was hurt by a $750,000 shortfall in Rose Bowl ticket sales (other Pac-10 schools covered $225,000 of the bill) and by continued attendance problems in men's basketball.
The WSU Athletic Foundation (formerly the Cougar Club), the fund-raising arm of the athletic department, previously announced school-record numbers in three key areas: total donations ($4.82 million), scholarship donations ($2.55 million) and members (5,504). Just last year, the Foundation had just 2,975 members.
Foundation head Brady Crook credits much of the increased interest in WSU athletics to last season's Rose Bowl appearance, the NCAA Elite Eight showing of the volleyball team and the signing of new men's basketball coach Dick Bennett.