RICHMOND, Va. — With its ticket punched for the big dance, the VCU men’s basketball team now must prepare for its first-round matchup later this week with the University of Central Florida.
But it’s not just the team’s athletes and coaches that are gearing up for March Madness.
The VCU Athletics department also must get to work, planning the logistics and budgeting for the financial impact of the school’s eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, the most among all Virginia colleges in that span.
VCU’s bracket-busting run to the Final Four in 2011 made the school a household name. Since then, that higher national profile has brought with it more money to manage, a new conference to play in, more flights to book and new facilities to open.
It also has come with pressure on the rest of the athletic department to take advantage of the visibility and momentum provided by the 2011 Final Four run.
Eight years later, the finances of the Athletic Department have changed drastically, and nonrevenue-generating sports also get to reap the benefits of the men’s basketball team’s success.
VCU Athletics’ annual revenue has more than doubled in the last eight years, jumping from $16.3 million in fiscal year 2010 – the last fiscal year before the Final Four run – to $34.2 million in FY 2017, according to the most recent data available from the school.
Its expenses have grown at a similar rate, jumping from $16.8 million in FY 2010 to $33.5 million in FY 2017.
Per its FY 2017 data, student fees, which are part of the university’s annual tuition, provide the majority of VCU Athletics’ revenue at $19.9 million. Its next-largest revenue source is donations ($5.1 million), followed by licensing and sponsorships ($2.5 million) and men’s basketball ticket sales ($2.4 million).
Jeff Cupps, VCU’s senior associate athletic director, whose staff’s responsibilities include managing the business end of VCU Athletics, said increasing student fees is seen as a necessary evil to compete at a national level.
“The way the 1-AA and 1-AAA athletics are set up, that’s pretty much the way (public universities) have to build their budgets,” Cupps said.
According to data provided by VCU, the athletic portion of its student fee has risen an average of $33 each year since the 2011-2012 school year.
The student fee at VCU during the 2010-2011 school year was $558. In 2011-2012, it jumped to $610. The fee for the 2018-2019 school year is $827. The university has 31,076 students enrolled in 2019, compared with 32,303 in 2011.