The University of Kentucky's athletic department will almost double the money it donates to the school's academic scholarship fund in 2012-13, UK announced Tuesday.
An increase from $1.7 million to $3 million will help UK award a record 51 Singletary Scholarships for incoming freshmen in the next school. UK awarded 34 such scholarships this past school year.
UK Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart noted that the larger donation may not be permanent.
"Our goal is to continue to support the university's academic mission as long as our budget can sustain it," he said in a statement.
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In an Internet posting, Barnhart pointed out that the $3 million donation was "not a recurring commitment."
UK's athletic department did not make any donation to the school's scholarship fund until then-president David Roselle began an annual $1.5 million transfer of funds in 1988. That donation increased to $1.7 million in May of 2009.
In a March 2011 story, The Herald-Leader noted that the $1.7 million annual donation UK athletics made to the school's academic side was significantly smaller, by percentage of athletic budget, than that then given by Florida (6.5 percent), Tennessee (5.2 percent) and LSU (3.8 percent).
The UK Board of Trustees Athletics Committee approved a $91.9 million budget for 2012-13. The larger donation represented about 3.3 percent of the budget.
Still, UK President Eli Capilouto applauded the dramatically larger donation for 2012-13.
"The athletic department, through their generosity, is covering with this single contribution the entire cost for the next four years of these 17 additional Singletary Scholars," Capilouto said in a statement. "This is important, and I am grateful."
In a statement, UK noted that the athletic department had donated $21,083,420 to the university in scholarships and royalties during Barnhart's 10-year tenure.
Of the 14 revenue streams cited in a budget report to the Athletics Committee, UK anticipated a decrease in only one: football.
Football remained the largest contributor, by far, to the athletics department budget. But UK lowered the football revenue estimate for 2012-13 to $27,587,500. It had been $29,590,000 this past school year.
"We tried to be smart in how we budgeted," Barnhart said. "... I don't think we'd ever budget (and) not prepare well."
Barnhart acknowledged that football season-ticket sales were "off a little bit." UK could match the 6 percent decrease in sales experienced last season, he said.
UK hopes to sell football season tickets throughout the summer, he said.
"We're hoping we'll have a chance to meet our budget projections," Barnhart said.
Ultimately, the onus is on the football program to excite fans, he said.
"We want to put a product out there everybody enjoys," Barnhart said. "We have a good football team coming back with some good young guys. We're excited about that. ... I feel we'll be OK, and, obviously, getting off to a fast start would be very helpful to our program. ...
"We have to go play. We have to provide fans and give them a reason to make sure they want to come. (Coach) Joker (Phillips) has a good plan (and) got some good kids coming back."
Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith gives Kentucky good leadership, Barnhart said.
The Athletics Committee approved a $91.9 million budget for 2012-13. That marked an increase over the $87,871,000 budget for this past school year.
UK's budget is smaller than five Southeastern Conference schools (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee), but larger than five SEC schools (Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt), the school said. It's on par with Georgia.
Additional expenses include a 6 percent increase in tuition and $200,000 allotted for UK to play host to a portion of the NCAA Tournament next March.
In his 10 years as director of athletics, Barnhart said tuition costs had increased from $4.2 million to $11.7 million.