The University of Arizona is considering cutting sports programs to deal with the school’s worsening financial crisis.
Arizona president Robert Robbins told faculty on Monday that “draconian cuts” will be required to address a $240 million miscalculation by the university’s financial model. Arizona was supposed to have 156 days of cash on hand for this fiscal year, but the university ended up with just 97 days of cash on hand.
Robbins claimed that the Wildcats’ athletic department has drained the university’s resources, noting a $55 million loan during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been paid back fast enough. About $40 million of that money was meant to be repaid over 15 years with interest. Arizona’s athletic department reported a loss of $591,000 last year despite receiving $31.1 million from the university — the second-largest subsidy in school history.
Arizona’s move to the Big 12 next year could help its financial struggles. However, Robbins pointed out that Big 12 schools sponsor an average of 17 sports — less than the Wildcats’ 23.
“Everything is on the table in terms of dealing with athletics,” Robbins said. “This is an issue that is going to require a lot of tough decisions.”
University faculty at the monthly senate meeting discuss how this financial crisis snuck up on Robbins and why chief financial officer Lisa Rulney still has a job.
“How can it be that you were not in the know for such a long time?” asked engineering professor Wolfgang Fink, according to Tucson.com’s Ellie Wolfe. “Your subordinate officers have an obligation to inform you, not on a monthly or quarterly basis, they have an obligation to inform you literally on a daily if not hourly basis if things like this transpire.”
“Are we going to just let them continue making mistakes and, you know, accept it?” astronomy professor Lucy Ziurys chimed in. “Because that is a mistake. If I make a $240 mistake on my grants I get nailed by the university. You have all kinds of people in administrative positions, supposedly there to balance the budget and to keep an eye on these things. That is a very bad mistake.”
“People who are qualified to run an athletics department may turn it into a profit,” said physics professor Johann Rafelski, who suggested that Robbins sell the athletics department to a more qualified third party. “We could perhaps get a good sale price.”
Robbins proposed other solutions such as decreasing financial aid and leasing land as Arizona State does. Arizona is expected to provide more details by Dec. 15, the deadline for administrators to submit their plan for financial prosperity to the Arizona Board of Regents.
In the pool, the Wildcat men placed 4th out of six teams at the 2023 Pac-12 Championships, one spot up from their 2022 showing, while the women regressed one place to 6th out of eight teams at Pac-12s last season. Augie Busch is in his seventh season coaching Arizona’s swimming and diving program.