Southern Miss’ athletic department runs up $1.2M-plus deficit

HATTIESBURG — The University of Southern Mississippi’s athletic department owes the university more than $1.2 million for deficits it ran in three of the past four fiscal years, and the department predicts a shortfall of at least $1 million for 2012-13.

But interim Southern Miss president Aubrey Lucas tells the Hattiesburg American measures taken by the university and the athletic department whittled about $800,000 from the projected debt in 2011-12.

Steps in the works to end the red ink include scheduling road games for large, guaranteed paychecks, he said.

“Our fans want the best games here and eventually, we hope we can do that. Until we get these deficits in hand, we’re going to have to do some of these pay games, and I hope our fans understand that,” Lucas said

State College Board policy forbids universities to finish a fiscal year in the red.

Lucas says audits had forecast a $1.2 million deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year, but USM pared that down to less than $400,000.

He said the university moved $150,000 from its general fund to athletics, bringing the annual transfer allowed under College Board policy to $1 million for 2011-12.

Costs such as grounds maintenance that could be considered either a university or an athletics expense were picked up by the university.

The athletic department’s steps included a freeze on vacant positions, he said.

“We’ve done a lot of good work in taking that (deficit) down,” said Southern Miss athletic director Jeff Hammond. He was hired this spring to fill the vacancy left by Richard Giannini’s resignation.

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