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The scarlet and gray will soon be in the red

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith confirmed Sunday that for the first time in his four-year tenure, Buckeyes’ athletic department is expected to lose money during the fiscal year ending June 30.

Smith said he didn’t know how much the department would fall short of projections, but revenues are down between $300,000 and $500,000 this year for the winning men’s basketball team.

“Maybe a couple hundred thousand,” he said of the possible total losses. “But it’s hard to tell.”

To make up the difference, the athletic department will raise ticket prices $1 per game in football and men’s basketball across the board, except for students, Smith said. He said the school had already planned to raise ticket prices, but the economic downturn made it even more important to do so.

The university’s board of trustees is expected to approve the increases when it meets later this week.

The school is also paring down costs by allowing only essential personnel to travel to road games and cutting other personal expenses for employees, he said.

Ohio State, which has an annual athletic budget of more than $110 million, typically banks the excess earned from ticket sales, concessions, radio and TV contracts and other revenue sources in its athletic reserve fund.

“We’re behind a little bit on revenue in basketball single-game tickets, concessions, revenue,” Smith said. “Once the economy started to shift, somewhere in October, we started to say, ‘Hey, this is going to hit us, and it’s hit us in this sport in particular.’ So we’re not hitting the single-game goals that we hoped to achieve.”

Smith, who took over as athletic director in 2005, said Ohio State would not cut any of its 36 sports, which is the highest number of teams at any school in the nation.

Ticket prices for football and men’s basketball would be raised by $1 a game for the 2009-10 season, and a football ticket would cost $63 next fall. Men’s basketball tickets will go up to $27 per game for the 2009-10 season.

Tickets will go up another dollar starting in the fall of 2010, Smith said.

The vast majority of Ohio State’s athletic revenue comes from football. Smith said the Buckeyes must play a minimum of seven home games to support all of the school’s sports teams.

In 2010 and 2012, the Buckeyes will play eight home games each season.

The athletic department will also ask the trustees to approve an increase in golf membership dues at the university’s Scarlet and Gray Courses.

As for cutting sports teams, “we’re not even thinking about that,” Smith said. “I don’t anticipate that during my tenure. There’s so many other things that we would cut before we’d get to cutting sports.”