Tennessee's athletic department is reportedly $200 million in debt. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Like most athletic departments, The University of Tennessee faces monumental financial strain to remain competitive amongst the nation's elite.
Their efforts to compete has led to nearly $200 million in debt and less than $2 million in reserves, reports the Sports Business Daily.
The Tennessee football program hired Butch Jones from Cincinnati after firing Derek Dooley in November after three seasons. The school still owes Dooley a $5 million buyout and $2 million more to his assistants.
Now, after staggering to losing football seasons in four of the last five years and seeing attendance drop to levels last seen in the 1970s, the Vols find themselves mired in more than $200 million of debt, the most in the SEC, with reserves of just $1.95 million, the least in the conference.
The athletic department spends a startling $21 million a year on debt payments, $13.5 million of which comes from the school’s stressed $99.5 million athletic budget and the rest from donations.
“We’ve got to get football healthy,” athletic director Dave Hart said. “That’s our economic engine. When that program is successful, everybody wins.”
That's easier said than done. In the past three seasons, the football team went 15-21 overall and 4-19 in Southeastern Conference play.