At Tennessee, Big Orange battles red ink - SportsBusiness Daily | SportsBusiness Journal | SportsBusiness Daily Global
Now, after staggering to losing football seasons in four of the last five years and seeing attendance drop to levels last seen in the 1970s, the Vols find themselves mired in more than $200 million of debt, the most in the SEC, with reserves of just $1.95 million, the least in the conference.The athletic department spends a startling $21 million a year on debt payments, $13.5 million of which comes from the school's stressed $99.5 million athletic budget and the rest from donations.It's an ugly financial picture for one of the nation's strongest football brands, the kind of financial hole that SEC football giants aren't supposed to be in, brought about by expensive coaching buyouts and costly improvements to Neyland Stadium and other athletic facilities, just as the losing seasons set in."We've got to get football healthy," Hart said from his office in the new $50 million Brenda Lawson Athletic Center, just weeks after hiring Butch Jones from Cincinnati to be the Vols' fourth football coach in the last six years. "That's our economic engine. When that program is successful, everybody wins."