The Northern Illinois men's basketball program has suffered yet another loss. This time, it wasn't on the basketball court, it was in its pocketbook.
NIU Director of Athletics Jeff Compher confirmed a CNN report that the men's basketball program reported a loss of $1,034,784, which is covered by internal athletic department funds, but cautioned as the CNN report did that schools have a significant amount of latitude in what is reported with the Department of Education as an expense and a revenue.
"I believe our numbers are accurate as they're reported," Compher said. "I think that every institution reports them differently and I think that's just the way it is."
As for a solution to the significant expenses, Compher saw one way out of the deficit.
"We've got to sell more tickets," he said. "That's probably the biggest thing we can do. We've got to get to a point where we're competitive enough, where our team is bringing in those kinds of crowds that help defray those costs."
NIU finished 11th out of 12 teams in home attendance in the MAC this season as the Huskies endured their fourth consecutive 20-loss season. A season that started with high expectations saw a 10-game losing streak and ended with some fans calling for coach Ricardo Patton to be fired.
Compher said he's had a preliminary meeting with Patton to discuss last season and what he wants to see next season. Compher said he wants to see progress from the Huskies.
"I think better than last year, obviously," he said. "But I'm not going to put some arbitrary number out there. ... It depends upon the outcome of the entire season, not just what the total number of wins are."
Asked if the results of the past couple of seasons were acceptable for the 2010-11 season, Compher said, "It's certainly not preferable. I think we need to build excitement and expectations around our program."
Across college basketball, though, a high number of ticket sales didn't necessarily mean high revenues.
Duke University, one of the top teams in all of college basketball, reported the largest loss in the report of $2,031,850. In contrast, Eastern Michigan, which finished last in the MAC in attendance this season, reported a gain of $18,943. Central Michigan averaged almost 200 people more per game in attendance than NIU, yet reported a gain of $342,072.
"Every school does it differently," Compher said. "I was looking at some of our conference brethren and found it hard to believe that some of them had positives. But I don't know how their accounting system works."
NIU spokesperson Donna Turner said the process isn't really standardized.
"They don't give you any explanation," Turner said. "They just give you a form and say, 'Here is what they want and fill it in.' They don't say it should include this and this and this and this. They leave it totally open to each school's interpretations."
Compher noted that he's been at five different schools and has seen five different formulas for reporting revenue and expenses in men's college basketball. He added that he believes NIU's number is a true number as to the expenses incurred by the men's basketball program.