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‘I think it’s money well spent’: WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart, President Caboni defend WKU Athletics spending


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said WKU’s annual athletics spending was between $20-30 million instead of $28-30 million. The Herald regrets this error.

WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart defended 2022-23 WKU Athletics spending in response to the approval of the NCAA independent accountant’s report during the Board of Regents quarterly meeting Friday morning, which revealed they required subsidies of more than $25.3 million from WKU to balance their budget, 63% of the year’s total athletics operating revenue of $40.4 million.

The information in the NCAA report is compiled by the university and its independent accountant and sent to the NCAA, meeting an annual requirement of the association.

At the end of the Board of Regents meeting, Faculty Regent and management professor Shane Spiller asked for clarification on the 2022-23 athletics spending.

Stewart said the actual annual operating budget was “not close” to the $40.4 million total operating revenue stated in the report.

“My sense is that $40 million must be derived from endowments, debt service, maybe it was money that went to the softball [and] soccer facility,” Stewart said.

Staff Regent and Director of Public Broadcasting David S. Brinkley said he felt the $40 million operating revenue in the report was “misleading.”

“It confuses me that the numbers are far grossly misrepresented to the $40 million total based on what you actually spend,” Brinkley said.

Stewart said that he was not sure, but believes WKU’s annual athletics spending was somewhere between $28-30 million.

“I think it’s money well spent,” Stewart said. “I’m biased, I’m the Athletic Director, but I would say it’s money well spent.”

Stewart also compared the $13,320 bowl revenue to the $568,217 bowl expenses for the 2022 New Orleans Bowl and explained that Conference-USA covers a “vast majority” of bowl costs including travel to and costs at the bowl site. 

“If those were the only numbers that apply, then that would show about a $487,000 loss on the bowl game,” Stewart said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not even close. We made money off the bowl game. We didn’t lose money on the bowl game.”

WKU President Timothy Caboni said prioritization of athletic spending over other spending has been a “perennial question” asked on every university campus he has been on.

“It doesn’t need to be athletics versus,” Caboni said. “We do lots of things here and we invest in a wide range of experiences and activities for our students.”

He said forensics and speech and debate, E-Sports and Student Publications are some of the groups that receive funding from the university.

“If we are gonna do it [athletics], then we are gonna do it right,” Caboni said. “The same way we do academics right. We can do all of it, because that’s the kind of institution we are. So this ‘us versus them’ stuff, this disinvestment stuff, just stop it. I’m not talking to the people in this room. The people who need to hear it are probably listening, and I want them to hear that from me. I’m just tired of it.”

Sports Editor Jake McMahon can be reached at [email protected].

Assistant News Editor Ali Costellow can be reached at [email protected].

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