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Colorado Athletic Department Suffers $9.9M Budget Deficit Pre-Prime

  • Football coach payouts and Pac-12 media fumblings led to the loss.
  • Sanders’s football team saw increased revenue, and the No. 4 women’s basketball team had record attendance, with fortunes expected to reverse.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The University of Colorado athletic department recorded a deficit of nearly $9.9 million in the 2022–2023 school year, according to numbers supplied by the university to Front Office Sports.

A recent NCAA financial report from fiscal year 2023 shows the department lost just over $9 million. However, different accounting definitions between the NCAA and the university mean the real number (provided by CU to FOS) was closer to $10 million. One contribution to that difference is the fundraising group called the Buff Club, which isn’t part of the athletic department but operates to support it, Cory Hilliard, the school’s senior associate athletic director for business, tells FOS. The NCAA included the Buff Club’s revenues and expenses in its report to keep things consistent between schools, he says.

It might be hard to remember this version of Colorado, back before Deion Sanders rejuvenated the football program and brought the national spotlight to Boulder. The university fired head football coach Karl Dorrell with about $8.7 million left on his contract, which it still pays through December 2024, plus some of his assistant coaches.

Remembering this version of the Pac-12 might be hard before nearly every school, including Colorado, jumped ship for another conference. Member schools lost about $6 million each while the conference paid back a debt to Comcast.

The department spent about $7.3 million on severance payouts, per the NCAA report, most of which went to Dorrell, Hilliard said. Total expenses were around $127 million, while total revenue came in around $117 million, according to Hilliard. Meanwhile, the NCAA report lists expenses at $136 million and revenues at $127 million.

Despite the loss, things are looking up for the Buffs. Fiscal year 2024 has seen more revenue for Sanders’s football team, which is set to receive a new video board in its stadium and record-breaking attendance for its No. 4 women’s basketball team. And next year, Big 12 payouts will kick in.

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