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Published: Wednesday, 4/27/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

WNIT profitable venture for UT

Rockets' books in black after 6-game run

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Fans packed Savage Arena during the Toledo women's basketball WNIT run, selling out the semifinal and championship contests. Fans packed Savage Arena during the Toledo women's basketball WNIT run, selling out the semifinal and championship contests.
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The University of Toledo women's basketball program not only captured a Women's National Invitation Tournament championship earlier this month, but managed to help the athletic department turn a profit in the process.

UT received a net revenue of more than $78,000 from the six postseason games even after having to pay nearly $167,000 to the WNIT for hosting rights, according to data released to The Blade Tuesday following an open records request.

In addition to a net profit of $36,855.61 from ticket sales, UT gained $18,914 in parking revenue from a $2 fee that was included in the ticket price for the WNIT semifinal and championship games, along with $11,515.46 of profit from merchandise sales during the six postseason games at Savage Arena and the championship celebration event on April 7.

Concession sales figures were not available Turesday; however, a UT spokesman said the school receives a 30 percent cut of all profits from those net returns, per an agreement between UT and Gladieux Enterprises.

"As time went on, there was a clear sense that financially we were going to end up in the black," UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said Tuesday. "But there's so much more than just the positive ledger sheet. Obviously we're so pleased with the championship, along with the national exposure for our university, the increase in school pride among our students and in the community, and the positive impact on recruiting."

Through the first two games of the WNIT, UT was operating at a $3,201.52 loss, not including any concession sales profits, because of small crowds and large bids paid to the WNIT for the right to host postseason wins over Delaware and Auburn. UT spent $11,432.50 in bids for each of the first two games while averaging just 1,319 fans per contest.

For the third game -- a victory over Alabama with 3,740 spectators on hand -- UT placed a bid of $16,942 but ended up having to pay $22,203 to the WNIT because of its revenue-sharing agreement. If a school makes money in the WNIT, it must pay 85 percent of its first $30,000 in net receipts and 55 percent of all profits over $30,000 provided those revenue figures are larger than its bid amount.

UT bid $11,942.50 to host an overtime win over Syracuse in the quarterfinals but ultimately paid $31,277.83, again because of revenue-sharing with the WNIT. The school also owed $38,307.09 from its victory over Charlotte in the semifinals after bidding $21,069.38.

For the right to host the WNIT championship game against Southern California, UT bid $51,542.50 and paid that amount because it did not make more than that in revenue.

WNIT director Renee Carlson told The Blade last month that participating institutions are charged hosting rights to ensure the solvency of the tournament.

The WNIT also pays for a portion of every visiting team's travel expenses and takes care of travel arrangements.

"The financial model is that the host teams need to guarantee a certain amount because that obviously helps run the tournament and keep it viable from year to year," Carlson said. "Obviously it doesn't have the corporate sponsorship or the TV revenue of a men's tournament."

UT became only the second school since the WNIT was resurrected in 1998 as a single-elimination tournament to host every game en route to a championship. Wyoming claimed the WNIT title in 2007 with six home victories.

The Rockets' final two games in the WNIT were played in front of sell-out crowds at Savage Arena and before a national TV audience on CBS College Sports.

"I was blown away by how our community embraced our program," UT coach Tricia Cullop said. "The support that they showed us down the stretch in the WNIT is something that I hope will continue down the road."

Season Honors

Team awards were presented at the annual UT women's basketball reception held at Savage Arena Tuesday night.

The Rockets won a school-record 29 games and became the first Mid-American Conference basketball program to capture a national postseason tournament.

UT also claimed an outright MAC regular-season championship for the first time in a decade with a 14-2 ledger, as well as successfully defending its MAC West Division title.

A complete list of award winners:

■ Team MVP Award (top interior player): senior forward Melissa Goodall, who averaged 12.9 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game and led the Rockets in scoring on 22 occasions, as well as rebounds a squad-best 20 times.

■ Team MVP Award (top perimeter player): junior guard Naama Shafir, who averaged a team-high 15.3 points and 5.1 assists per game this season and scored in double figures on a team-best 30 occasions, including a career-high 40 points vs. USC in the WNIT championship game.

■ Most Improved Award: sophomore center Yolanda Richardson, who averaged 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and a squad-best 1.0 blocks per game during the WNIT.

■ Best Defender Award: redshirt freshman guard Andola Dortch, who defended the opposition's best perimeter player and paced the team in steals (1.7 spg), tied for the 12th-best in the MAC.

■ Most Inspirational Award: junior wing Courtney Ingersoll, a 2010-11 tri-captain.

■ Sixth Man Award (sponsored by the Igniters, the Rockets Fan Club): Ingersoll, who came off the bench and ranked third on the squad in 3-pointers (30) and blocked shots (9), tied for third in steals (42, 1.1 spg), fourth in assists (46, 1.2 apg), tied for fourth in rebounding (3.6 rpg), sixth in minutes played (24.0 mpg) and seventh in scoring (4.2 ppg).

■ Whatever it Takes Award: sophomore forward Lecretia Smith, who moved into the starting lineup this season to fill the void left by 2009-10 All-MAC first-team selection Tanika Mays in the post and averaged 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 assists in 26.3 minutes per game.

■ Academic Award (Top GPA for fall semester and first portion of spring semester): Ingersoll, who posted a 4.00 GPA during the 2010 fall semester, is on pace for a great GPA for the '11 spring term.

■ Community Service Award: senior guard Jessica Williams, who played a significant role in Toledo's involvement with the Josina Lott Residential & Community Services.

Contact Zach Silka at: zsilka@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.



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