Audit Shows Most University of Utah Athletic Teams Aren’t Meeting Performance Goals Despite Raises Given to Coaches

University of Utah Campus The University of Utah’s Athletic Department has a $6.4 million revenue surplus in a special account, but still owes the university as a whole $4.7 million, the result of “overspending” associated with joining the PAC12 conference five years ago, a new legislative audit shows.

In addition, the U’s athletic program has one of the highest “student fee” subsidies of the PAC12 schools – with 17.8 percent of the athletic departmental budget coming from the U. as a whole plus student fees.

That ranks third among the PAC12, with only Arizona State (23 percent subsidy) and Colorado (18 percent subsidy) being higher.

There seems to be lax budget and inventory control in several areas of the U.’s athletic department’s operations – which could, but doesn’t necessarily – mean there may be some financial cheating or theft of assets, including unregistered computers and other items.

The Legislature’s examination of the U.’s athletic program came about, in part, over some conservative, BYU-fan lawmakers upset that last winter, the men’s basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak, cancelled a game with Brigham Young University, the traditional intra-school rival of the U.

Krystkowiak said at the time he was worried about the safety of his team, as in a previous BYU-Utah basketball game there was a physical fight, started by a  BYU player.

The new audit notes that Krystkowiak promised to pay the U.’s athletic department the cost of that cancellation – tagged at $80,000.

Krystkowiak has paid $20,000 of that $80,000. But the payment came from the coach’s own athletic foundation. 

And, said Auditor General John Schaff, it is unclear if that $20,000 came out of his personal pay – as the coach promised – or out of foundation monies donated by others.

However, the audit says U. officials have promised, and confirmed, that the $20,000 came from the coach personally, as will the other $60,000 yet owed.

Meanwhile, the audit says that U. Athletic Director Dr. Chris Hill’s contract with the U. lacks specific incentive goals for historically little-revenue-producing teams.

Hill’s contract, and the financial incentives tied to it, cover only the major sports, like men’s football and basketball, women’s gymnastics and such.

Other PAC12 schools’ athletic director contracts emphasise that the coach(es) don’t get incentives unless other, less-revenue-producing teams are aided financially and are performing well.

Finally, when the U. joined the PAC12, some coach’s and assistant coach’s salaries were bumped up, to better reflect the salaries of other PAC12 teams.

But the teams overseen by some of those U. coaches have not done significantly better in performances – meaning the coaches in effect got pay raises that otherwise may not have been merited.

“Hardly any of the sports reached the goals set by the (U.) department from 2011 through 2015,” the report said.

Now is the time, the audit says, for these “overpayments” to be considered, perhaps by freezing the coaches’ pay until their teams started to perform better.

“Most sports did not meet their (performance) goals,” the audit says. “But all sports saw significant (coach) pay increases,” the report says.

While the U. athletic department owes the administration $4.7 million, it’s likely that amount could be paid off over the next few years ($2.9 million has already been paid).

And, of course, there is the current $6.4 million cash reserve account in the department, as well.

Four other PAC12 athletic departments owe a lot more to their universities than does the U.’s.

Washington State’s athletic department owes around $50 million; Oregon State owes around $30 million; and Colorado owes around $20 million.

On the plus side, the audit finds that the U.’s athletic expenses are lower than its peers.

Both before joining the PAC12 and since, the U.’s athletic expenses have been the lowest of the 10 public universities – there are two private schools, USC and Stanford. who don’t have to meet the same public reporting requirements.

U. President David W. Pershing, in his official response, says the U. is in the process of adopting all of the audit’s recommendations, noting that it cost a lot of money for the U. to join the PAC12 – which in itself will bring enhanced revenues to the U.