USA Today continues its great reporting on the business of college sports. A couple of days ago, its website offered readers a really eyeopening database showing a detailed look at the athletic revenues of some 200 Division I colleges and universities. The most eye-catching finding: only 14 of these schools brought in as much money (from ticket sales, donations, radio/TV, and marketing/merchandising payments) as they spent on sports.
The biggest expense used to be scholarships, but now it’s coaches’ salaries. Nine men’s basketball coaches–including Mike Krzyzewksi, whose Duke team is playing for the national championship tonight–make more than $4 million.
The schools make up the deficit through direct institutional support and, increasingly, student fees. To take a couple of examples close to (my) home, at Rutgers, in 2008-09 (the most recent year available) student fees paid $7.8 million and institutional support $17.9 million—a combined 44 percent—of the $58.5 million athletic budget. At my employer, the University of Delaware, no student fees went to athletics (thankfully), but direct or indirect institutional support paid for a whopping 78 percent of the $30.30 million budget.
By my calculations, that amounts to well over $1,000 for every UD student, going to pay the sports team’s bills. That just seems wrong.
A VP at the University of Houston, Carl Carlucci, was nice enough to talk to USA Today for a related article. At Houston, over the last five years, the university and student fees have, respectively, covered $43 million and $21 million in athletic expenses. Carlucci defended the spending, including the men’s basketball coach, Kevin Sumlin, getting a 60 percent raise, to $1.2 million. “We’re paying for talent,” he said. “We’re in a competition for fans. When Sumlin wins, we can count on more ticket sales.
“It’s like any other entertainment business.”
He said it, not me.