Despite all the empty seats, KU says football ticket sales were up in 2018

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas running back Pooka Williams runs in a touchdown during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Despite the frequent sight of empty seats on a Saturday at Memorial Stadium, University of Kansas officials are now saying they actually saw an increase in football ticket sales during the 2018 season.

KU sold $3.98 million worth of football tickets during the last season, which saw the Jayhawks go 3-9 and culminated with the firing of head coach David Beaty. That $3.98 million figure is up from $3.41 million in football ticket sales in the 2017 season. The numbers measure only the dollar value of tickets sold, not the actual attendance at games.

KU disclosed the numbers as part of a required NCAA financial report that was filed earlier this week.

Football ticket sales increased by nearly 17 percent in the 2018 season. But the figures do show that football ticket sales remain far from their peak. According to past data, KU football ticket sales hit a high of $9.5 million in 2009, the final year of the Mark Mangino era. From 2006 to 2012, KU averaged $7.6 million a year in football ticket sales. Since 2012, KU has averaged $4.3 million a year.

The numbers also show that KU football ticket sales continue to trail those of many other Power 5 conference programs. Kansas State University also filed its NCAA report this week, and it shows the Wildcat program sold $12.46 million in football tickets during the 2018 season.

The reports, though, also show how much of a financial juggernaut KU basketball remains. KU sold $15.85 million worth of men’s basketball tickets in 2018. That total is greater than the amount of tickets Kansas State sold for all of its programs — football, basketball, baseball and women’s sports — combined.

KU basketball ticket sales increased by 4.9 percent over 2017 totals. The 4.9 percent growth rate was the best showing for KU basketball tickets since the 2015 season. While revenue from basketball ticket sales has fluctuated, even declining during some economic downturns, it still has been a decade of big growth for basketball totals. Since 2006, revenues from KU basketball ticket sales have increased from $7.72 million to more than $15 million, despite KU being limited on the number of new tickets it can sell. Allen Fieldhouse, the 16,300-seat home of the Jayhawks, consistently has been sold out during that time period.

The Journal-World sought comment from KU Athletic Director Jeff Long about the latest financial numbers, including expectations he has for football revenue growth following the hiring of former national championship coach Les Miles. The Journal-World has sought an interview with Long since the first week of December, but KU officials have not made him available.

The NCAA report also highlights several other numbers. They include:

The nonprofit athletic corporation had $106.3 million in revenues and $104.1 million in expenses during fiscal year 2018. Those figures are different from those in audited financial statements that Kansas Athletics previously released for 2018. Those statements showed Kansas Athletics posted an operating loss of about $440,000 when looking at total assets. The operating loss grew to $1.6 million when subtracting donor contributions that are restricted for specific projects. The NCAA financial reports and audited financial statements are often different. The NCAA has its own set of reporting standards, while audited financial statements are required to use generally accepted auditing standards that are used throughout the corporate and nonprofit world.

KU received $28.75 million in media rights, with the bulk coming from the Big 12 Conference as part of its football television contracts. That’s up from $25.11 million in fiscal year 2017.

The department received $8.3 million in other revenue from the conference, which includes money the Big 12 distributes based on the number of football bowls that conference teams compete in during the season. That revenue was down from $11 million in fiscal year 2017.

Coaching salaries totaled $17.7 million for the year. That’s up about 16 percent from the previous year. For comparison, K-State paid its coaches $15.5 million in 2018.

Administrative salaries totaled $20.7 million. That’s down from $21 million in fiscal year 2017. The decline represents a shift in trends. Past data shows administrative salaries rose significantly at KU Athletics over the last decade. In one year, administrative salaries increased by 42 percent — or about $6 million in a single year. The 2017 figure of $21 million was a new high-water mark. While KU’s numbers declined in 2018, the gap in administrative pay between KU and K-State is still significant. K-State had administrative pay of $14.8 million in 2018.

The amount of athletic student aid — the dollar value of scholarships for tuition, books, room and board — totaled $11.9 million. That is up about 6 percent from 2017.

• The number of students receiving athletic aid totaled 398 in 2018, with 220 female and 178 male student-athletes. That’s down from 429 in 2017. Those figures include student-athletes who are receiving a full-ride and those who are receiving partial scholarships. When the number is converted to a full-time equivalency, KU provided the equivalent of about 250 full-time scholarships in both years.

• KU reported receiving $1.5 million from the university’s general operating funds. That’s down from about $1.6 million in 2017. Several faculty and staff members have lobbied for the university to eliminate general fund support for the athletic department as KU is undergoing about $20 million worth of budget cuts on the KU campus. Athletic department leaders, however, have successfully lobbied to keep the funding.


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