FAMU Athletic Department Undertakes Debt Reduction Actions

The debt-ridden athletic department at Florida A & M University says it has started a series of “serious cost-reduction” measures aimed at containing expenses while sustaining a strong program.

The new plan is not expected to help FAMU in the near future pay down the $6 million deficit the program has accumulated, a top FAMU official said, nor is there a deficit reduction timetable or plan to cut programs as some universities have done to slash their costs and deal with program deficits..

“Despite these best efforts, any revenue generated from these efforts will go to support our current year expenditures; therefore we do not expect any impact on the overall deficit,” said FAMU athletic director Derek Horne.

In a detailed statement about resolution of the deficit, Horne said the department will be exploring more “bundled” travel opportunities, will place “emphasis” on in-state recruiting and is adding to its marketing staff to “foster” ticket sales and additional corporate sponsorships.

“With a set of attainable, but aggressive goals, the department will again be self-sufficient,” said Horne, noting that over the long term, the new plan would help produce some “incremental reductions in the overall deficit.”

Noting that ticket sales and athletic fees generate about 76 percent of the department’s income annually, Horne said in his statement he anticipated both would be impacted this year based on expectations of lower enrollment at FAMU and “the current reduction in our ticket sales, especially among our season ticket holders.”

To address the expected revenue shortfalls, Horne said he was adding two additional people to the department’s marketing staff. Those positions will be funded by funds left over from vacant positions with any additional revenue.

On the other hand, Horne said he expects significant increases in the value of scholarship awards due to a 12 percent increase in tuition and increases in costs of meal plans and housing costs, some of which are covered by athletic scholarships.

The athletic program’s efforts to generate near-term revenue have been hurt in recent months by the benching of its world famous marching band. The approximately 400 member band, credited with boosting ticket sales at FAMU football games at which it plays during half time, has been suspended due to the involvement of some band members in hazing activities, including one that ended in the death of a drum major last fall.

FAMU officials have not said what actions they plan to take to fill the void left by the band’s absence.

Horne said his department’s desire “over the next five years” is to hold the annual growth of its staff within its allocated budget, to be mindful of any tuition increases and “capture that cost as it impacts scholarships”. The department will also continue to work with the university’s office of business and financial administration to “leverage” travel related costs.

FAMU, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), has 16 intercollegiate athletic programs – eight for men, eight for women.