Home ‘Hoo foots the bill for UVA Athletics? Well, it ain’t the people who buy tickets

‘Hoo foots the bill for UVA Athletics? Well, it ain’t the people who buy tickets

uva scott stadium
Photo: UVA Athletics

If you’re a season-ticket holder for UVA Football, UVA Basketball, other sports on Grounds, you probably assume that you’re among the ones footing the bulk of the bills for UVA Athletics.

Turns out, no, and it’s not even close.

Ticket sales for all sports at UVA added up to $14.1 million in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, according to data compiled by Sportico.

UVA Athletics, according to the Sportico data, reported $140.9 million in total operating revenues in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Meaning that, ticket sales accounted for just around 10 percent of overall revenues in that 2022-2023 sports year.

This, of course, doesn’t account for the season-ticket folks who also have to donate money on top of what they pay for tickets to be able to get better seats, parking, et cetera.

That total is buried into the bigger sandbox of donor dollars, so I can’t do a dollar-for-dollar to break that down.

Straight ticket sales, though, make up a dime of the dollar, which, for context, at the school that a lot of us old-timers consider our peer school, UNC, ticket sales there account for 21.6 percent of the overall operating budget there.

And this bothers me to no end, but ticket sales at dear old UVA actually accounted for a smaller portion of the overall pie than the dreadful student activity fees line item, which is the fee that the university tacks onto a student’s bill ostensibly to cover the cost of student tickets to sporting events, whether the kid goes to games, whether there are even enough tickets available, or not.

The UVA Athletics bottom line from these activity fees: $16.1 million.

This embarrassing total not only led the ACC in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, it also led all of Power 5.

It’s totally coincidental, but I still find it interesting that $16.1 million line item is almost dollar-for-dollar equivalent to the difference in ticket sales between the $14.1 million that UVA reported in 2022-2023 and the $30.1 million in ticket sales that UNC reported in 2022-2023.

Student activity fees, to me, are the wages of the sin of not being competitive in football, which as I pointed out last week seems to coast on the back of the ACC’s TV deal with ESPN, with UVA’s spending ranking eighth among the eight ACC schools that have to report their athletics spending because they’re public schools.

You spend the least, and you’re going to tend to get what you paid for, with UVA Football, as we all know well, coming off back-to-back three-win seasons going into the 2024 fall season.

We also all know well that we haven’t been coming close to filling up the 61,500-seat Scott Stadium in forever. The last time we had 60,000 or more for a game was way back in 2008, for the season opener with Southern Cal.

The bottom line for football ticket sales in the 2022-2023 season, according to the Sportico data, was $7.7 million, ranking seventh among the eight reporting schools in the ACC, and 48th among the 52 schools in Power 5.

Now, to be fair, we did lose two home games at the end of the 2022 season, but the trend over the previous four non-COVID years tells a similar story to 2022.

UVA averaged $8.3 million in ticket sales over the 2017-2019 and 2021 period, according to the Sportico data.

For comparison, Virginia Tech, UVA’s in-state ACC rival, reported $15.0 million in football ticket sales in 2022-2023, almost double what UVA brought in, and its average for the four years encompassing 2017-2019 and 2021 was also $15.0 million, so, again, almost double what UVA brought in over that period.

Notably, ticket sales for men’s basketball aren’t where you’d think they’d be. UVA reported $5.4 million in ticket sales for men’s hoops in 2022-2023, up from an average of $4.9 million a year from the 2017-2019 and 2021 non-COVID years.

The John Paul Jones Arena, unlike Scott Stadium, is regularly packed to the gills, so the only way to increase revenues from ticket sales would be, and I’m not advocating this, because my wife is a season-ticket holder, but, raising ticket prices would do the trick.

We still would be hard-pressed to approach the basketball ticket sales at UNC ($15.4 million in 2022-2023) and Louisville ($12.1 million in 2022-2023).

UNC and Louisville, which play in much bigger arenas, have been 1-2 in the ACC in men’s basketball ticket sales since the 2017-2018 season, by similar margins as to what we saw in 2022-2023.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].