Wren for financials story

North Texas athletic director Wren Baker stands inside the Lovelace and McNatt Families Practice Facility last fall. UNT's athletic department finished with a budget surplus of more than $850,000 in the 2019 fiscal year.

The University of North Texas’ athletic department finished the 2019 fiscal year that ended on Aug. 31 with a surplus of just over $850,000 — a key milestone for the program under athletic director Wren Baker.

UNT had not finished a fiscal year with a budget surplus previously under Baker, who arrived at the school in the summer of 2016.

The milestone was one of the highlights of UNT’s latest financial report obtained by the Denton Record-Chronicle through an open records request. Schools provide a financial report to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) annually.

Baker said he has discussed ways to move the UNT athletic department toward being more financially stable with university President Neal Smatresk and Bob Brown, UNT’s senior vice president for finance and administration.

“I’m pleased first of all that we are in the black,” Baker said. “We can plan ahead now and see expenses on the horizon. As a CEO, I love to see that revenue is up 7% and our expenses are only up 3%. We talk about building champions and preparing leaders. Our expenses have gone up in the areas that support that mission.”

UNT’s operating expenses in athletics were $39.9 million in 2019 and were covered largely by $15.4 million from the university and $12.6 million from student fees. Students contributed $2 million more to the school’s athletic department in 2019 when compared with the previous fiscal year after approving an increase in their athletic fee.

UNT also saw its severance payments for former coaches and administrators who have left the program fall by 42% to $363,315 as those former employees’ contracts run out.

The school used the additional funds largely to provide better support for its student-athletes.

UNT added a sports nutritionist to its staff under Baker and increased its spending on meals for student-athletes while they are on campus by 123% in 2019 to $418,593. The school also increased its spending on recruiting by 31% to $497,000.

The school’s coaches have consistently praised Baker and UNT’s administration for the way it has invested in the school’s athletes while managing the department’s resources.

“Our administration, Board of Regents, president and Wren Baker give us the resources we need to be successful as coaches and players,” UNT football coach Seth Littrell said last fall. “All of the things they are putting into our program show they are committed.”

That investment appears to be paying off, despite a tough 4-8 finish in football last fall.

The UNT women’s soccer team won the Conference USA tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament last fall. The men’s basketball team posted its second straight season with at least 20 wins in the 2018-19 season, while its women’s basketball team advanced to the final of the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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