Commodore Nation: What are the primary sources of income for Student Athletics? David Williams: Our income comes roughly in thirds. We self-generate about $17 million through ticket sales, gifts, concessions and so forth. We receive approximately the same amount of money as an investment by the university, and the Southeastern Conference membership split is somewhere in the $20-$21 million range. Our budget is about $55 million.
CN: How would another million dollars of annual fund income affect our athletic budget? DW: If we could raise an additional million dollars it would allow us to pull our operations closer in line with our competitors. To be truthful, we are so far behind our competitors here that while $1 million would help, we actually need much more! For example, an additional $1 million could pay for a new Jumbotron in Memorial Gym; or it would allow us to award maximum scholarships in swimming and bowling and better fund men's cross country; or it could offset expensive travel to Columbia, Missouri and College Station, Texas for games with our new SEC members. There are lots of practical ways we could use additional income."
CN: The budget seems so big. Do smaller gifts make a difference? DW: Yes! Those smaller gifts can add up. And any gift, regardless of size, shows a commitment that someone is vested in the program. People can grow into larger gifts, too. Most of us have to work our way up in what is comfortable.
CN: How do you respond to those that think the university should essentially pay for its athletic department and its projects? DW: What other great program does that? No other member of the Southeastern Conference pays its entire athletic budget. Everyone generates income through outside resources. Our university is very generous in its investment with athletics, but if you want a first-class program, alumni and friends also have to participate. The university, as wealthy as it may seem, has many needs and not all of these needs have the resources to be self-sufficient. I would offer the divinity school or law school as but two such examples. When we won the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, everybody was excited about "their" team, but typically our important academic centers receive less fanfare.
I hope our fans are beginning to understand that we know what we are doing, that we can and have been successful in athletics; but make no mistake, it costs money. There has to be more than a handful of generous donors making our athletics tick. And very soon others will have a chance to step up and help as we push forward with exciting new facility projects.