COLLEGE PARK -- Showing a $4 million profit for last season, the University of Maryland's resurgent basketball team helped its debt-riddled athletic department break a 10-year run of red ink.
For the first time since 1984, Maryland was able to balance its athletic budget in 1994-95, according to figures released yesterday by athletic director Debbie Yow. Thanks to its basketball success, Maryland was able to offset a shortfall in football revenue and realize an operating profit of $35,036 during the fiscal year.
"I feel better than I did this time last year," said Yow, who assumed control of Maryland's financially troubled program Aug. 15, 1994. "But it's only one step in what will prove to be a long and arduous process to develop fiscal integrity in this program, hopefully without having to cut any men's sports."
Indeed, if Yow expects to carve significantly into an accumulated athletic department debt of more than $6.8 million and meet Title IX requirements on gender equity as well, she will need a substantial increase in football income. She made a move in that direction by announcing plans to move a 1996 home football game against Florida State to 74,000-seat Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, which should net as much as $500,000 for Maryland.
The football team generated a profit of nearly $1.39 million last fall -- almost $600,000 less than the projections of previous athletic director Andy Geiger.
Neither profit margin in basketball or football counts scholarship costs, however.
University president Dr. William E. Kirwan was ebullient discussing Yow's balanced budget.
"When she came in, she knew one expectation was that we balance the budget," Kirwan said. "She has taken it on with a vengeance and done a remarkable job."
Yow arrived with a reputation as an accomplished fund-raiser, and she cut operating costs without cutting programs. She also intends to depart from her predecessor's strategy of coming in with low budget projections.
"It's better to go ahead and realistically project what your expenses are and then deal with it on the revenue side," she said. "What we've done, evidently, is we didn't want to show those large numbers. So we downplayed expenses, we up-played revenues, and then every year, we're short."
Geiger, now athletic director at Ohio State, credited Yow but also defended his strategy at Maryland.
"I was trying to jump-start programs," he said. "I was trying to find resources to strengthen programs as best I could. It was an evolutionary kind of thing. Probably part of what's been accomplished is a result of things Lew Perkins [his predecessor] did as AD, some things of mine, and some of hers."
Geiger said eliminating the nearly $7 million athletic debt will be difficult.
"They've fallen into the worst possible financial morass they can fall into," he said of the Terps' athletic program. "They'll need as much institutional support as they can get."
Kirwan said he will present a plan to eradicate the athletic deficit to the Board of Regents' finance committee in August, but declined to reveal specifics. "I think it is very well conceived and creditable," he said.
In the meantime, Yow tentatively has negotiated to move the 1996 Florida State game from Byrd Stadium, calling it a "one-time agreement."
She said that over the past five years, Maryland netted approximately $244,000 for each home game. The Carquest Bowl would pay Maryland $1 million to move the game to Miami. After paying expenses and a share to the visiting team, Yow said the Terps should be able to take home half that amount.
Brian Flajole, executive director of the Carquest Bowl, said the only major issue left to decide is a date.
"We've got to work around Major League Baseball [the Marlins] and the NFL [the Dolphins]," Flajole said. "We would hope to get some Maryland fans down here in late October or early November. Our goal is to get everything done in the next two weeks."
Without Penn State and West Virginia -- sellouts the previous year -- attendance at Byrd Stadium dropped from an average of 37,355 in 1993 to 28,962 last year.
Both football and basketball went over projected expenditures, the former by $378,142 and the latter by $425,165.
The men's basketball revenues exceeded projections by nearly $1 million as a result of increased home ticket sales and a more generous distribution from the Raycom television package. The big expenditures for the team were trips to Paris and Hawaii.
Besides increasing revenue through television and gate receipts, Maryland will decrease expenditures through a change in the way the athletic department is billed for scholarships.
The Board of Regents has granted limited tuition waivers for out-of-state students, both in academic and athletic scholarships. Yow said such waivers could save the department $350,000 to $500,000 a year.