|« Hard times dog Mississippi Valley State athletics||APP-lication Approved: Edwards Signs with Panthers »|
FAMU looks to get athletic program out of the red
If indeed it takes a village to raise a child, then Florida A&M President James Ammons might be on to something to help his athletic program get out of the red.
While FAMU has made great strides during the past year to reduce its athletic department’s deficit by almost $1 million, Ammons believes that if coaches recruit more local athletes they’d eventually help gate receipts that could put more bodies in the Lawson Center and Bragg Stadium on game days.
“I think there is some merit in looking at local athletes, especially when you have a 10,000-seat facility,” Ammons said during a recent interview with the Tallahassee Democrat. “The family, the church, the community — I think everybody would come to watch local athletes play.”
Meanwhile, FAMU’s athletic department continues efforts to cut into a budget deficit that totaled $5.3 million a year ago. Ammons said the gap is now at $4.6 million and the goal is to make the department profitable within the next three to five years.
To that end, Angela Suggs had been brought in as assistant director for marketing and promotions, with her primary role being to sell the Rattler brand. In addition, FAMU is close to completing negotiations with a fundraising firm to help its campaign, Ammons said.
FAMU’s boosters have also made significant contributions in cash and services for the athletic department to the tune of $570,478 during the past year. Financial support has jumped significantly from five years ago when the boosters gave $1,300 to athletics. During the past three years, the boosters have contributed $800,000, said executive director Mickey Clayton.
The jump in contributions could be attributed to the urgency that the boosters consider necessary to get their alma mater out of the red, Clayton said. Last year, the group financed a “jumbotron” in Bragg Stadium and an overhead scoreboard inside the Lawson Center. Baseball also received a pitching machine and basketball was given a shooting machine.
“For us it’s a sense of being there when we can financially,” Clayton said. “We do everything that’s within our power to help the athletic department. The boosters have stepped up in terms of their contributions and what we’ve done to help the university in the last few years.”
FAMU’s other major source of income is its share from televised Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games and two major football games — the Atlanta Classic and the Florida Classic. Both games generated paydays that total $1.3 million.
Football brought in an estimated $2.7 million last season.
Men’s and women’s basketball brought in $20,927 in ticket sales for home games and approximately $450,000 in additional revenues from guaranteed games.
Ammons’ administration assumed the shortfall when he became president almost three years ago. An ill-fated move to Division I has long been blamed for erasing most of a $3-million surplus that the department enjoyed at least five years before Ammons became president.
Most of the other causes for the financial trouble were widespread.
“There were a lot of issues,” Ammons said. “It wasn’t just the deficit, there were receipts missing. There were so many things that I didn’t just concentrate on one. There were so many things that we found with the athletic department, that if restricted, will allow us to save.”
A large portion of the department’s $9 million budget is spent on travel, which Ammons said is now being monitored in a fashion that will save money. Other money-making moves include raising the cost of ticket prices by $10 to $45 for this year’s homecoming game.
“I have some pretty smart people here,” Ammons said, singling out interim athletic director Mike Smith and CFO Teresa Hardee for their vigilance over spending. “They have put together a plan; not just from the addition of gate revenues, but a plan that looks at every component of our spending and our management.”
By St. Clair Murraine
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER