Wren Baker knew earlier this year that the North Texas athletics department faced a huge challenge financially due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

UNT’s athletic director and his staff aren’t finished dealing with the issues the spread of the disease has caused, but they saw some promising signs recently when the school filed its latest financial report to the NCAA.

UNT finished with a surplus of $167,504 for the 2020 fiscal year that wrapped up in August. The school’s athletic expenses for the year were just short of $40 million.

“I continue to be pleased that we remain financially stable in uncertain times,” Baker said. “It’s a credit to our student-athletes, coaches, staff and most importantly our loyal supporters that we are in that position. We are going to have continued financial challenges for the next year or two, but we are positioned as well as anyone to deal with them and emerge from the pandemic healthy.”

Schools are required to file their financial information with the NCAA each year.

Baker said in the spring that UNT would cut as many corners as it could financially without damaging the experience of athletes, cutting the salaries of employees or laying off staff as it dealt with the pandemic. UNT has left a few positions in the department unfilled, including two senior-level spots, but has not cut salaries or staff.

The school saw its revenue decline by nearly $700,000, leaving it some ground to make up financially.

The drop was due in part to a decline of more than $800,000 in UNT’s NCAA distribution after the men’s national championship basketball tournament was canceled. UNT also brought in $360,000 less in the last fiscal year in program sales, parking and concession revenue after spring events at the Super Pit were canceled.

The money UNT saved when spring sports were canceled and maintaining a tight budget helped the department make up for those losses.

“Cutting corners has helped,” Baker said. “We dropped everything into essential, important and elective buckets. We held off on the things in the elective bucket and have had a lot of discussions about things in the important bucket. We were able to do a lot of things we feel are important, but there were things we feel are important that we weren’t able to do.”

UNT’s athletics department received just more than $270,000 in government funding from the CARES Act.

While that relatively small influx of cash helped, Baker attributed UNT’s continued solid financial standing to donors and the way his staff managed the school’s resources.

The Mean Green Scholarship Fund brought in $2.3 million in the 2020 fiscal year, a 13% decline from the previous year, when boosters contributed nearly $2.7 million to the fund.

“Donations have doubled from what we had originally, and we feel like they will double again,” said Baker, who arrived at UNT in the summer of 2016. “We are not making the progress we want to, but the good news is we are stable in very unstable times. I am very appreciative to our donors for their continued support.”

Baker credited UNT’s financial team in athletics, including Matt Witty, for helping the program remain in good financial shape.

Witty recently took over as the chief financial officer for the UNT athletics department and helped steer the program through a tough period financially.

“I am pleased with how stable we have been,” Baker said. “If you had asked me back in March when everything hit if we would be where we are, I would have said probably not.

“It’s a credit to the leadership across campus and inside the athletic department.”

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

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