UH athletics annual spending skyrockets by $16M after big year

Although Houston's football team saw a drop in ticket sales in 2019, going down from $3.66 million in 2018 to $2.68 million in 2019, other UH athletics programs have picked up the slack to increase overall numbers in the category. | File photo

Although Houston’s football team saw a drop in ticket sales in 2019, going down from $3.66 million in 2018 to $2.68 million in 2019, other UH athletics programs have picked up the slack to increase overall numbers in the category. | File photo

In its innate drive to push itself into national prominence and the Power Five, and clad with a newly-hired — and expensive — head football coach and $3-million-per-year basketball coach, UH athletics made it clear in fiscal year 2019 that financial investment in the department would grow.

“We have to act as if (we’re in a Power Five conference),” athletic director Chris Pezman told ESPN ahead of the football team’s bout with Oklahoma in September 2019, projecting UH’s spending would hit $75 million by 2022.

Although UH athletics did not hit Pezman’s mark in fiscal year 2019, according to a report from the UH System Board of Regents meeting Thursday, Houston’s revenues and expenses skyrocketed exponentially in one of the biggest jumps the department has ever seen.

UH athletics, which saw success in 2018-19 with its programs combining for six American Athletic Conference titles, had a $19.91 million jump in revenue to $75.05 million and a $16.57 million increase in expenses to $73.68 million.

With the increases, UH athletics profited for the first time since 2017 and just the second time in five years.

Here’s a breakdown of what changed for Houston:

Direct institutional support

To say University administration has prioritized growing UH athletics is an understatement.

Much of the reason Houston saw the jump it did in revenue, according to the report, is because of “direct institutional support.”

In fiscal year 2018, UH athletics received $22.4 million from the University, but that number in 2019 grew by nearly $12 million to $34.2 million.

Financial support directly from the University has been on the rise since 2008 — the year Renu Khator, a known advocate for UH athletics’ growth, took over as UH president.

From 2007 to 2008, direct institutional support from the University ballooned from $2.31 million to over $13.15 million, making up 42 percent of UH athletics’ revenues in Khator’s first year.

The number also grew by over $21 million in the last decade.

Ticket sales

As a whole, UH athletics ticket sales saw a slight boost, jumping from $4.31 million in fiscal year 2018 to $4.88 million in 2019.

But the football team, despite a 2018 season that saw the Cougars win five games at home, averaged just under 30,000 fans in attendance and took a near $1 million hit in ticket sales, continuing a downward trend.

The football team’s figures peaked in fiscal year 2017 at $5.53 million, dropping in 2018 to $3.66 million and to $2.68 million in 2019.

However, other programs in UH athletics have picked up the football team’s slack.

Led by Kelvin Sampson and the squad’s 33-game home win streak, Houston’s men’s basketball team’s ticket sales eclipsed its 2018 numbers, going from just under $350,000 to $1.1 million in 2019.

The women’s basketball team also saw a big jump in ticket sale dollars, more than doubling from $25,290 to $57,124 in the same span.

Much of the success can be attributed to both programs finally being able to make use of Fertitta Center, which opened December 2018 for both teams to host home games.


Although not at its peak in recent memory, UH athletics pocketed over $1 million more in contributions in 2019 ($9.6 million) than 2018 ($8.39 million).

That number was at its highest in 2017, when UH athletics made $9.92 million in contributions.

The football team ($942,517) was given the most out of any program in 2019, but non-specific program contributions exceeded $6.44 million.

Coaching salaries

When it comes to coaching — and its known Pezman and Khator embrace the “spend big to win big” mentality — UH knows how to splurge.

On top of Sampson, who signed a six-year, $18 million extension in April, UH athletics inked a five-year deal with Dana Holgorsen in January worth $20 million to make him the highest-paid Group of Five football coach.

Before that, Houston was dishing out $1.4 million and $1.5 million annually to Sampson and former football head coach Major Applewhite, respectively.

UH increased football coaching salaries by over $2.5 million in 2019, also nearly doubling basketball salaries from $2.53 million in fiscal year 2018 to $5.07 million last year.

The increase in coaching salaries was seen across the board, other sports seeing a $604,633 boost.

With UH’s continued investment in athletics, these numbers can be expected to grow in 2020.

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