SAN DIEGO — Poor attendance at San Diego State home football games will result in a $372,000 drop in anticipated football revenues, Athletic Director Fred Miller said Thursday.
Miller said he intends to offset the shortfall with increased revenue from other sources, including a Super Bowl concert series featuring Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli, and a hiring freeze.
"We will balance the budget," Miller said. "We won't operate at a deficit."
Miller said it is too early to tell how this year's shortfall might affect planning for next year's budget. But because the Aztecs have one fewer home football game next season, Miller said he will have to find a way to increase revenues if he budgets the department at its current level.
Attendance at the Aztecs' first five home games is averaging 23,214, a decrease of 26.8% from last season's average of 31,723 per game. The Aztecs close the season Saturday against New Mexico in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
The attendance drop represents a turnaround from last season, when the Aztecs had the largest attendance increase (an average of 12,238 per game) in college football. SDSU's attendance had averaged 19,485 in 1985.
Miller attributed this season's attendance drop to the Aztecs' poor start. SDSU played four of its first five games on the road and lost them all. The Aztecs were 1-6 before they won three of their past four games.
"When you start out 1-6, you really don't give yourself much of a chance to succeed," Miller said.
The athletic department's $4-million budget had called for $1.44 million in football ticket revenue. Miller said ticket revenue will reach only $1.07 million.
Miller said that after accounting for slightly lower than anticipated expenses in some areas, the department will be left with a deficit of $314,000.
Much of the deficit will be covered by the concert series, Miller said. Miller would not say how much he anticipated would be raised from the two concerts, but he did say $114,000 would be applied to this year's budget. Miller would prefer that any additional revenue from the concerts be applied to a proposed recreation and activities center, which may include a hall of fame.
Other increased revenues, Miller said, include a requested $50,000 department supplement to its $750,000 allocation of student fees, higher than anticipated basketball ticket revenue and an increase in revenue sharing from the Western Athletic Conference. Miller said SDSU would receive an additional $25,000 because the conference has reportedly placed three teams in bowl games. An additional $50,000 will be saved by not filling two department vacancies (one secretarial and one administrative), Miller said.
The deficit also has forced the department to postpone a plan to use $135,000 to reduce its accrued deficit of $348,000 and establish a reserve fund.