Two key developments regarding the future of the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department were given clarity Friday.
Members of the UW Athletic Board approved a record budget request of $133.071 million for 2013-14. It includes $127.571 million for operating expenses, $3 million for University Ridge and $2.5 million for camps and clinics.
The budget — which doesn't have any ticket increases and needs approval from the UW Board of Regents — is nearly $20 million more than the model for 2012-13 due in large part to a single $31.05 million payout to complete the Student Athlete Performance Center.
After the meeting, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez spoke on the path being taken by the Big Ten Conference in terms of realignment and football scheduling.
The addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the league in 2014 means a change in how the Big Ten will split into two divisions for football. Alvarez emphasized nothing has been decided, but "I think it's going to be an East and a West" alignment.
"I feel comfortable that we'll keep Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska," Alvarez said. "Those are the top three I'd want to protect" in terms of annual matchups.
Big Ten athletic directors and football coaches are also trying to decide whether to play nine or 10 league games. Alvarez said the Big Ten will continue to play eight contests through 2014 because more than 30 contracted non-conference games by league members would have to be bought out.
Asked for his preference on the expanded schedule, Alvarez said nine Big Ten games seems to work best because it enables schools to have the seven home games needed to balance their athletic budgets.
"I did prefer 10 until I sat down and put a pencil to it," he said. "I don't know if we'd ever get seven home games (with 10), so I guess I'm leaning toward nine.
"If you go to 10, you can forget about seven home games. You better make up the difference in the TV revenue, so that's why I like nine."
A major drawback to a nine-game schedule is the inequity. Some teams would play five home games in a given season and others would play four.
"A lot of moving parts and nothing's perfect," Alvarez said of the process, which will continue through the spring. "You just have to decide which is most important."
Given the fluid nature of scheduling, Alvarez said he's looking at multiple options for neutral-site games. Those opportunities could work if UW, unable to have a seventh game at Camp Randall Stadium, is able to secure a guarantee that covers the $3.5 million in revenue generated by a home game.
Alvarez declined to go into detail on reports the Badgers will play Alabama in Arlington, Texas, in 2015, though he did acknowledge a contract has been completed but is unsigned.
"I don't know who's holding it up," he said.
The budget-stretching $31 million item in the UW financial plan for next year will help finish off its latest capital project. The $86 million SAPC is being built at the north end of Camp Randall and features new headquarters for football, sports medicine, academic services and strength and conditioning.
Other aspects in the proposed budget include $2.9 million to the chancellor's office as its cut of the estimated $9.1 million payout from Big Ten Network revenue; $800,000 as part of a revised split of parking revenue with UW Transportation; $470,000 in less ticket revenue from men's hockey; and $450,000 in technology and compliance upgrades related to credit card use.
For perspective, the spending request for UW Athletics was $88.761 million in 2009-10, $93.868 million in '11-12 and $113.689 million for this academic year.
Randy Marnocha, the UW associate athletic director for business operations, projects the budget for 2014-15 will fall below $100 million because the SAPC will be completed.