UA Athletics’ giving of the year sees 13% drop

FAYETTEVILLE – Contributions to the non-profit Arkansas athletics foundation Razorback declined for the 12-month period that ended on June 30 of last year, a period that included the first pandemic month.

Total donations fell to their lowest level since fiscal 2013 for the Razorback Foundation, and the organization’s expenses exceeded revenues.

Donations to the Razorback Foundation, whether in the form of tax-deductible donations or secured tickets, play a major role in funding inter-varsity athletics at the University of Arkansas and Fayetteville, including the salaries paid to Razorback coaches and some administrators.

The Razorback Foundation ended the fiscal year with contributions and grants totaling approximately $ 27.1 million, according to the organization’s IRS statement filed last month. The total was down about 13% from some $ 31.2 million in contributions the previous year.

Expenses for the 12-month period ended June 30 were approximately $ 27.5 million, down from the total of $ 30.8 million last year.

The foundation’s assets fell to $ 62.4 million from $ 62.7 million a year earlier.

To explain the drop, the foundation referred to “large donations” in the previous fiscal year in support of baseball and athletics facility projects, according to a statement from Meredith Pettigrew, director of communications. strategic and stewardship of the foundation.

Prior to that, the statement said, the foundation raised funds to support the $ 160 million project to expand and renovate the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Razorback Foundation previously said more than $ 44 million was raised to support the stadium project, which was completed in 2018.

Pettigrew’s statement said the foundation “saw a slight drop in contributions to the Annual Fund due to the pandemic.”

During the same 12-month period that straddled the first months of the pandemic, UA’s sports department recorded operating expenses of approximately $ 123.9 million, a total greater than the operating revenue of UA. ‘approximately $ 123.4 million, according to a financial report submitted to the NCAA.

Complete financial information is not yet available on expenses and income for the current fiscal year, which ends next week.

Kevin Trainor, a spokesperson for the university, noted in an email the difference between the foundation’s annual donations and “one-time donations” for projects, such as building facilities.

” Waiting for [fiscal year] 21 years and beyond, we will likely see an increase in donations as the Razorback Foundation reports on donations received for future investment projects and program support, ”Trainor said.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that the NCAA cannot cap the educational benefits provided to college athletes. So far, it is unclear which universities might end up providing that are not already available to varsity athletes. Some have speculated that laptops and study abroad opportunities may end up being provided.

When asked if the decision means UA will have to rely more on fundraising, Trainor called the fundraising “vital in order to be able to provide continued support” to students participating in Razorback athletics.

“The generosity of Razorback fans and the successful fundraising efforts of the Razorback Foundation have enabled us to continue to increase our investment in the success of our more than 465 student-athletes, on and off the field,” said Trainor.


Clayton Hamilton, chief financial officer of Razorback’s sports department, said January through April coincided with membership renewals.

It is not known to what extent the drop in contributions results from the renewal of the number of season tickets.

Last spring, however, the emergence of the pandemic made it uncertain whether a football season would even be played. The first cases of covid-19 in Arkansas were identified in March 2020.

In the end, five home football games were held last fall at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, up from seven originally scheduled.

Covid-19 protocols also limited attendance to around 23% of site capacity. The box scores for the matches posted on the university’s website list 16,500 participants for each of the five matches in a stadium with a typical capacity of around 72,000.

The Razorback Foundation gave football season pass holders the option to request a refund if they were unable to keep their seats due to limited seating or if they had health issues and safety issues related to covid-19. Otherwise, contributions normally for subscriptions were counted as tax deductible gifts.

The university announced on Tuesday that Reynolds Razorback Stadium and other sporting venues will be open during the 2021-22 seasons with no capacity restrictions.

“The pandemic has made more clarity than ever that college football is what makes the budget work,” said Ryan Swanson, associate professor of history at Honors College at the University of New Mexico who writes frequently on the Athletics.

But Swanson said that despite dire predictions about the pandemic that would drain the sports department’s finances, “it wasn’t as bad as a lot of people had expected, in general.”

He noted that “the football season has passed, for the most part,” and also that universities have received federal pandemic relief funds to help offset at least some expenses directly related to the pandemic.

Regarding the role of nonprofit fundraising organizations like the Razorback Foundation, Swanson said that for college athletic programs competing at the highest level, “it’s just this growing trend of foundations doing more. more”.


For fiscal year 2019-2020, the financial statement of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville noted “increased distributions” of $ 2.5 million from the Razorback Foundation for salaries.

Trainor said the additional $ 2.5 million from the foundation was tied to “funding transition costs for football coaches.” During the 12-month period covered by the IRS return, UA fired head coach Chad Morris and replaced most of the football coaches.

The period covered by the IRS return also included the June 2020 lawsuit filed by former football head coach Bret Bielema, who claimed that the Razorback Foundation buyout payments were stopped in violation of a repurchase agreement.

The Razorback Foundation and Bielema settled out of court in April.

The time period for the foundation’s 990 return straddles less than the first month of the legal dispute with Bielema, with $ 69,802 listed in legal fees for the year.

Pettigrew’s statement acknowledged that the foundation “has seen an increase in legal fees due to the dispute with coach Bret Bielema”.

Upon its return, the foundation reported a loss of $ 148,905 on the sale of land by the entity Cato Springs Road LLC, formed by the foundation to manage a donation of approximately 254 acres of land from the owner of the Cowboys of Dallas and former UA football co-captain Jerry Jones. .

The land is located southwest of Fayetteville, west of South Cato Springs Road and near the intersection of Interstate 49.

The deeds show a sale of $ 6 million of approximately 230 acres in 2019. The foundation’s IRS report now lists Cato Springs Road LLC as having year-end assets of $ 900,000. At the end of the previous fiscal year, the foundation’s IRS report indicated that Cato Springs Road LLC had assets of $ 6.9 million.

The Razorback Foundation’s financial statement showed that – not counting support for facilities and construction – the foundation provided around $ 14.1 million to cover sports department expenses, up about 4% compared to approximately $ 13.6 million provided the previous year. The most recent total was lower than the approximately $ 16.4 million provided in fiscal 2018 and the $ 14.3 million in fiscal 2017.

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