NCAA Finances

Few Programs Are Self-Sufficient

NCAA Finances
September 28, 2015

Pay the players! That's the cry from groups who discount the value of the free education that college athletes receive. Usually the argument focuses on football and the enormous amounts of money that top tier NCAA Division I schools receive. However, the majority of schools actually lose money on athletics and have to subsidize their athletic programs off student fees and other sources.

A USA Today analysis of the public schools in NCAA Division I shows that in the 2013-2014 athletic year only 10% of the 230 schools listed had self-sufficient athletic programs. Oregon tops the list with $196 million in revenue and $110.4 million in expenses, but they are not considered self-sufficient because the revenue total includes "in-kind facility gifts" of $95 million, courtesy of Nike founder Phil Knight. The remaining self-sufficient schools are all in four of the five major conferences: Big 12, Pac 12, Big Ten, and the SEC.

Looking at finances just through the prism of Division I football, in the same year as the USA Today analysis (2013-2014) the top 20 teams in revenue brought in $1.42 billion. That is somewhere in the range of 50-60% of the overall athletic department revenue for these programs.

The SEC is usually thought of as the big-money conference, but the SEC is tied with the Big Ten for spots in the top twenty in revenue with seven schools each. The Big 12 has three, the PAC-12 has two and the ACC has one.

Here is the top twenty in collective athletic program revenue, aka the $100 Million Revenue Club, with football-only revenues/profits in parentheses.

  • Oregon $196 million in revenue, $110.4 million in expenses ($56 million revenue/$29 million profit).
  • Texas $161 million in revenue, $154.1 million in expenses ($113 million revenue/$74 million profit).
  • Michigan $157.9 million in revenue, $142.6 million in expenses ($91 million revenue/$65 million profit).
  • Alabama $153.2 million in revenue, $120.2 million in expenses ($95 million revenue/$53 million profit).
  • Ohio State $145.2 million in revenue, $113.9 million in expenses ($66 million revenue/$39 million profit).
  • LSU $133.7 million in revenue, $123 million in expenses ($88 million revenue/$50 million profit).
  • Oklahoma $129.2 million in revenue, $113.4 million in expenses ($71 million revenue/$43 million profit).
  • Wisconsin $127.9 million in revenue, $125.1 million in expenses ($47.3 million revenue, profit not listed).
  • Florida $124.6 million in revenue, $109.7 million in expenses ($69 million revenue/$46 million profit).
  • Texas A&M $119.5 million in revenue, $95.7 million in expenses ($58 million revenue/$34 million profit).
  • Oklahoma State $117.8 million in revenue, $109.6 million in expenses ($49 million revenue/$39 million profit).
  • Penn State $117.6 million in revenue, $117.4 million in expenses ($68 million revenue/$37 million profit).
  • Auburn $113.7 million in revenue, $126.5 million in expenses ($50 million revenue/$39 million profit).
  • Tennessee $107.5 million in revenue, $106.2 million in expenses ($70 million revenue/$49 million profit).
  • Minnesota – $106.2 million in revenue, $106.2 million in expenses ($39.8 million revenue, profit not listed).
  • Iowa $106 million in revenue, $102.3 million in expenses ($53.6 million revenue, profit not listed).
  • Florida State $104.8 million in revenue, $98.9 million in expenses ($57.4 million revenue, profit not listed).
  • Michigan State$104.7 million in revenue, $107.4 million in expenses ($53 million revenue/$26 million profit).
  • Georgia $103.5 million in revenue, $92.6 million in expenses ($77 million revenue/$39 million profit).
  • Washington $100.3 million in revenue, $86.1 million in expenses ($68 million revenue/$39 million profit).

Private schools were not included in the USA Today analysis, thus omitting legendary football schools such as Notre Dame and USC. Notre Dame would have come in fifth on the football revenue list with $81 million in football revenue and $48 million in football profits, and USC would have been 15th in revenue at $59 million with $29 million in profits.

High-football-revenue public schools that did not make the top 20 in total athletic department revenue include Nebraska ($60 million football revenue and $36 million profits), South Carolina ($56 million football revenue and $30 million profits), and Arkansas ($57 million football revenue and $29 million profits).

Football is such a driver that the first school with a top revenue sport other than football is Louisville, at number 29 with basketball revenue of $41 million.

Curious about your alma mater? Compare the lists of top sport by revenue, and the total NCAA athletic finances rankings list. Once you get past the five power conferences, it is evident from the subsidy levels that football becomes more of a burden than a cash cow.

If players do get actual payments instead of the stipends now being considered, it will be because the power conferences have split away from the NCAA completely and formed their own governing body. If that happens, all pretense of amateurism is gone and major college football becomes a big business — overtly.


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Erin | 09.28.15 @ 13:55
That's a lot of money in college sports. I wonder, comparatively, how much is being put into the education programs.
Steffanie | 09.28.15 @ 13:56
I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I think there is way too much money going into sports....
Angie | 09.28.15 @ 13:59
This is very surprising to me! I would have thought that the profit margins were much higher.
Ron | 09.28.15 @ 13:59
The NCAA gets paid billions to do literally nothing. It is amazing. I fully expect some drivel from them about the goal of college athletics building team skills versus it being a money maker for big schools and minor leagues for pro sports. That said, Players (all sports) should get stipends here and there. I would say specific jersey number sales should have cuts going to those specific players.
Sarah | 09.28.15 @ 14:06
Why must I live in a state with TWO on this list!?!
Jackie | 09.28.15 @ 14:11
If college athletes are to be paid, let them pay for their own college education. I'm sure that would change some minds.
Amanda | 09.28.15 @ 14:12
Wow, that's a lot of money!!! I agree with another I'm not sure exactly how I feel other that's a lot of money.. Each year more and more money is being spent on sports but why? Why spend so much when education needs to be #1 in spending.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 09.28.15 @ 14:13
I feel this would greatly take away from the actual educational growth of the players
Carla Truett | 09.28.15 @ 14:13
Oh wow! There is a lot money in sports. Some have lots of profit. Sadly though, tuition keeps going up.
Leslie | 09.28.15 @ 14:18
It seems like these schools should be re-investing the money into all school programs to make the school attractive to all students, not just athletes. With all the news stories I read about athletes graduating with college degrees who are functionally or completely illiterate, they need to focus on educating these young people, this way they have futures beyond college sports.
Crystal | 09.28.15 @ 14:22
Holy moly! I had no idea how RICH college sports are!
Stokes | 09.28.15 @ 14:35
It sounds a lot like maybe someone needs to look into expenses. Where is all this money going? Athletics programs should be supporting academics; not the other way around.
Wanda Langley | 09.28.15 @ 14:36
I am not a big sports fan so I had no idea that they took in this much money. WOW!
Selena Walls | 09.28.15 @ 14:36
Personally, I think more money should be going to the education side of things.
Alec | 09.28.15 @ 14:40
I hope the profit is being put back into the college to help better the school. I don't think athletes in college should get paid, no matter the profit margin. They're in college for an education, not a sport. I'm surprised the profits aren't higher though.
Elaine | 09.28.15 @ 14:41
Well I personally believe they are already being paid in some way under the table, so I don't think it would make that much of a difference to do it openly.
Tina | 09.28.15 @ 14:41
Athletic scholarships are paid out much more freely than academic ones (I know - I did a research project on it in college). Graduating from a university debt free? They already ARE getting paid compared to the vast majority of the college population.
Christina | 09.28.15 @ 14:48
This is crazy. It's too bad that value of having their education paid for isn't as important as being paid to play sports. If players are going to receive stipends, then they should be contributing accordingly to the cost of their education.
Jonathan | 09.28.15 @ 14:48
My main issue with not paying players is these kids are out there, risking their bodies and don't have money to live off of. When I was in school I worked a part-time job. These folks between school, practice and games do not have time for this.
Nancy | 09.28.15 @ 14:54
Wow! That's a lot of money. I'd love to see how much is being spent on the rest of the programs at these schools.
Beverly | 09.28.15 @ 14:58
It's a shame college education isn't a focus for the players rather than making a quick buck. It's a shame college education isn't a focus to the college but rather to make a quick buck. And we wonder why they grow up and don't know how to handle their money or do anything else.
Britt | 09.28.15 @ 15:05
That is a lot of money... especially for college sports!
Bobbie | 09.28.15 @ 15:08
If the players are paid, then they need to pay for all their own school expenses, at the regular rate, not some reduced rate. The schools are not there to athletics, they are there for education. Athletics are taking over and not focusing on education for many of these "student" athletes.
Coryn | 09.28.15 @ 15:10
Very informative article.
Katie | 09.28.15 @ 15:11
This somewhat upsets me, if they are making that much in college sports then why does it still cost so much to attend college. It would seem that they could put money back towards tuition expenses and cut down on the cost of attendance for students.
trish | 09.28.15 @ 15:12
While I am not surprised by the fact that college sports is a huge money maker, I am not sure I like the idea of paying the players to play at this level. I think it would truly take away from college feel of the game and make it just another professional sport. I watch NCAA Baskeball but not the NBA. I would hate to lose my love of the game
Heather | 09.28.15 @ 15:12
College sports make a ton of money. Its no wonder why college athletes want compensation.
Kyle | 09.28.15 @ 15:17
I have always found it rather amazing just how much money is in sports.
Angie Taylor, Insurance Agent in Montevallo, AL | 09.28.15 @ 15:22
This was a very interesting article.
Kailie | 09.29.15 @ 14:52
Wow. That is an insane amount of money.
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