LSU athletics had a $9.62 million operating deficit for the 2021 fiscal year, according to the university's annual audit report, despite receiving a $23.3 million league-wide supplemental bailout from the SEC.
The 2021 fiscal year concluded on June 30, 2021.
LSU's athletics department according to its audit report, sent $1 million back to the university as a non-operating expense. Its annual financial report to the NCAA says that it sent $4.4 million to the university.
In either instance, that amount represents a reduction of $4 million that was sent back to the university compared to the 2020 fiscal year.
The payout from the SEC was a one-time advance on future conference revenue projected from a lucrative TV contract, beginning in 2025, under which ESPN will be taking over the package of football games currently held by CBS. Each school also received a $4 million signing bonus for that ESPN agreement.
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LSU also cut $24.1 million in expenses from its 2020 fiscal year budget. The athletic program saved $3.1 million on athletic student aid, $3 million on game expenses and $4.1 million direct overhead and administrative expenses, among other notable reductions.
But where the university ultimately lost money was not on its expenditures, but with its revenue. LSU's income in the 2021 fiscal year was $38.5 million less than it was in 2020.
One significant factor behind the drop was limited ticket sales that were a result of the pandemic. LSU football, the main driver of ticket sales, only brought in $5.69 million during the 2021 fiscal year. During the 2020 fiscal year, the program made $37.7 million on football ticket sales.
LSU football began the 2020 season limiting its attendance capacity to 25% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, capping expected revenue from a program that had 71,000 season ticket holders at the time. Sixty-five percent of those ticket-holders opted out of their purchases for the 2020 season.
A second reason behind the decrease in revenue came due to a significant drop-off in contributions to the athletics program. LSU lost $21.4 million in contributions in comparison to the 2020 fiscal year.
Contributions, according to the document, include donations to the Tiger Athletic Fund, season ticket holders who pay for priority seating, parking permits and sponsorship funds, among other revenues.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Here's why LSU athletics had a $9.6 million budget deficit in 2021 fiscal year