DURHAM, N.H. (AP) – The University of New Hampshire football team is winning fans with its dominance on the field, but it’s losing money.

The Wildcats, whose performance on the gridiron has made great strides over the past few years under coach Sean McDonnell, recently finished their season with a 9-4 record and reached the Division I-AA quarterfinals. But UNH football lost more than $1 million during the last fiscal year, 2005-2006. It spent more than $3 million and brought in a little less than $2 million.

UNH athletics director Marty Scarano said most Division I-AA football programs are expected to operate at a loss, but the gap at UNH should be smaller this year, as ticket sales jumped from 172,000 last season to 320,000 this fall.

“UNH football is probably the most efficient operation that maintains excellence of any program that’s out there,” Scarano said.

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which knocked UNH out of the playoffs last weekend and advanced to the national championship this weekend by defeating the University of Montana, lost more money last season than any other I-AA program in the nation: $2.93 million, according to U.S. federal Department of Education statistics. However, UMass does not report state funding as revenue, while UNH does, Scarano said.

Scarano has been lobbying state lawmakers to spend $30 million to $35 million building a new, larger stadium. He says it would help the team maintain excellence and cut the deficit by attracting more fans and hosting traditional I-AA heavyweights.

UNH, which earned $300,000 for playing Northwestern this fall, will travel to Marshall next year and is scheduled to play Army in 2008.

But Scarano would like to see some of those games at home.

“If we had a legitimate facility with lights, we would draw 12,000 to 15,000, and then we would bring in a Montana,” he said.

Scarano said although the team will probably continue to lose money, its winning ways have put the university on the map with prospective students. That’s been especially true this fall, when wide receiver David Ball broke Jerry Rice’s all-time I-AA record for career touchdown receptions.

“I think we exhibited in the last two years what the program means to the campus,” he said. “And I think that the recognition that it’s brought to the university … is incalculable.”



Information from: New Hampshire Union Leader, http://www.unionleader.com

AP-ES-12-10-06 1218EST


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