Arizona State athletics’ $300M debt ‘eliminated’ in restructuring

We almost missed it amid Arizona State’s official announcement of the hiring of Graham Rossini as athletic director on Thursday.

When talking about why the hiring of Rossini took so long (especially when the university didn’t formally interview any other candidates), Arizona State President Michael Crow talked about waiting until the NCAA investigation around the school’s football program had been resolved.

He also discussed restructuring the model under which the athletic department worked, citing the debt that the athletic program carried.

Crow didn’t specify the amount of debt, but it was valued at $312,890,623 dollars in 2023-23, according to Sportico.com, the second-highest outstanding debt in the nation behind California ($439,363,996).

That debt has evidently been ‘eliminated’ with the ASU athletic department restructuring, according to Crow.

‘A lot of athletic programs around the country nowadays borrow money from the universities and then they carry debt with the university so we have eliminated all of that,’ Crow said Thursday. ‘We have built a structure now for finances which can weather any hurricane going forward, any tumult we might encounter. We’ve built the athletic facilities district as a legal entity which generates the revenue to build things like this stadium. We’ve created all types of other financial structures that are going to allow ASU athletics to be able to advance. We came through the pandemic with no debt. We came through the pandemic with no layoffs in the university, no reductions in salary or furloughs. So we’ve built a financial structure, what has happened in the past is that athletics was considered a separate thing, an auxiliary enterprise. It’s not an auxiliary enterprise now. It’s in the core of the enterprise of ASU, so we’ve changed the model that’s going to allow us to have our athletic department focus on victory, and success of our student-athletes academically and athletically. The rest of the enterprise is going to worry about the bigger financial issues.’

How did ASU athletics eliminate more than $300 million in debt? That still remains unclear.

Reach Jeremy Cluff at jeremy.cluff@arizonarepublic.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter @Jeremy_Cluff.

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