Category Archives: Independents

Notre Dame Recruiting Expenses

In terms of recruiting expenses, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame put up a good fight when stacked against other programs’ spending.  In 2010-11, Notre Dame spent a grand total $2,070,316.00 on recruiting.  This amount was the third-highest in the NCAA, and the highest in the Big East, the conference in which Notre Dame is a member.

Seeing that Notre Dame spent $376,114.00 more than the next highest recruiting spender (Alabama) in the NCAA, leads one to wonder what exactly the $2,070,316.00 was spent on.

Tom Nevala is Notre Dame’s Senior Associate Athletics Director for Business Operations and Youth Programming.  In his Business Operations role, he oversees all financial matters for Notre Dame’s athletic department.  Nevala was willing to help provide insight into how Notre Dame’s large recruiting budget is spent.

When asked how the athletic department’s budget is structured in a given year, Nevala provided the following insight:

“There are two components to what a team believes their budget should be:  What it has been and what is newly required going forward.  We participate in the university’s budget process.  We have to seek approval for our budget.  We have a net revenue target that we have to meet for the campus.  Our budget only grows if we get approval to grow and we can meet the revenue target.  Teams put forth their budget requests, and if we can meet those two things, we grant their budget accordingly,” explained Nevala.

Nevala’s explanation pointed to a significant factor for Notre Dame’s extensive recruiting budget:  the fact that Notre Dame athletics drives a significant portion of the university’s revenue.

According to Nevala, the Notre Dame athletics department is committed to providing $20 million worth of revenue to the university.  This $20 million is additional to the amount of money the athletics department spends to fund all of the department’s scholarships.  The $20 million worth of revenue provided by the athletics department to the university is used by the university to fund other students’ financial aid and to cover operating expenses.  As for where the athletics department obtains the revenue from, Nevala explained that, “The revenue mainly comes from football ticket sales.  We also have the benefit of a strong broadcasting relationship and fundraising,” said Nevala.

The athletics department’s ability to turn over $20 million worth of revenue to the university as a result of its football team’s success is arguably a reason why nearly one-half of Notre Dame’s entire recruiting budget is spent by the football team.

In 2010-11, Notre Dame’s $2,070,316.00 recruiting budget was spent as follows:

Team Recruiting Expenses Percentage of Total Recruiting Expenses
Football $1,008,028.00 48.7%
Men’s Basketball $304,252.00 14.7%
Women’s Basketball $198,021.00 9.6%
All Other Men’s Teams $300,328.00 14.5%
All Other Women’s Teams $259,687.00 12.5%

The link below is a pie chart depicting just how much of Notre Dame’s recruiting budget is spent by particular teams:

Notre Dame Recruiting Expenses

While the fact that 48.7 percent of Notre Dame’s entire recruiting budget was spent by the football team may seem outrageous to some, several factors must be taken into consideration.  First, unlike sports like basketball where only a handful of student-athletes are recruited during a given year, a school can be recruiting upwards of fifty or more football players in a given recruiting year.  Nevala also noted that travel expenses are higher depending upon when a recruit visits Notre Dame.  For instance, hotel prices in South Bend, Indiana, where Notre Dame is located, skyrocket when the Fighting Irish are playing a home football game.  If a football recruit is visiting for a game, this factor increases the cost of recruiting him.

While Nevala confirmed that the vast majority of recruiting expenses incurred by every Notre Dame team are travel related, he also explained that it’s possible that Notre Dame’s recruiting expenses appear significantly higher than other those of other schools, because Notre Dame is comprehensive in how it defines recruiting expenses.  According to Nevala, Notre Dame tries “to capture everything recruiting related” when reporting its figures to the Department of Education.  Examples he used included coach’s cellular telephone bills, subscriptions to recruiting newsletters, meals, and recruiting brochures.

Furthermore, Nevala indicated that Notre Dame’s recruiting expenses may be higher than other schools’ because of the athletics department’s focus upon recruiting the best talent nationally.  “We’re in a pretty unique situation here.  While we’re a Big East conference member, across the board, all of our sports are competing nationally.  That puts a different approach into recruiting nationally.  We also fund all of our sports’ scholarships, so that tends to lead to a little bit more national recruiting,” noted Nevala.

With its ability to generate a significant amount of revenue for the university, historical recognition as an athletics powerhouse and its desire to bring the best talent found nationwide to South Bend, one thing is for sure:  Notre Dame’s recruiting expenses will continue to lead the NCAA.

Conference Realignment Predictions

How conferences will realign is anyone’s guess. I’ve spoken with athletic department executives at a number of schools and they’ve asked me as many questions as I’ve asked them. No one has a clear idea of how things will shake out.

What I do know is that my predictions from over a month ago were wrong. So, I’m ready to roll out some new ones. This time I want to talk about the timing, because I think that’s a huge part of how this all unfolds.

The SEC is going to add Texas A&M. The legal maneuvering is a stall tactic and will be resolved.

It’s beginning to sound like Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC will be the surprise move that will blow things wide open. Let’s say that happens next.

Now the Big East needs to add at least a couple of teams…or go back to being a basketball conference. Six weeks ago I said that the Big East would be an innocent bystander who would be fatally wounded in the conference realignment standoff. I still think it’s possible.

If the Big East is looking around, where are they looking? Should they go after Big 12 schools like Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech or Baylor? Those schools might have to make a decision before they know if Oklahoma or Texas will finish off the Big 12 by leaving. If you were one of those schools, what would you do? I think I’d be listening to the Big East, especially if I was Iowa State or Baylor and got the call. If you’re those schools, do you want to risk that there are no available chairs when the music stops playing?

I think it’s a tougher call for Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech, because they could end up with a better option. If I’m them, I try to stall as long as possible.

The Big East could also invite UCF, East Carolina, Houston or a number of other schools. If I’m any of those schools and get the call, I’m putting ink on paper as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma could finalize its move to the Pac-12 any day now. Oklahoma State’s President is perhaps the only President getting any sleep these days. His horse is effectively hitched to Oklahoma’s wagon.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State moving to the Pac-12 do not mean the end of the Big 12. The Big 12 is over when Texas says it is. If they want to stay, and they certainly have reasons to, the Big 12 can look at BYU, Air Force, Houston, SMU or maybe try to lure a Big East school away. Again, the Big East is like a deer frozen in the headlights. It just has to wait and see if anyone takes it out.

In the meantime, the SEC needs a 14th member. If the Big 12 stays intact, I’m not convinced they add 14 right away. However, if the Big 12 is coming apart, the SEC could snag Missouri.

And what exactly is the Big Ten doing? Delaney is like a General up on a hill watching the battle take place in the valley below. He could swoop in and make a move if he needs to, but for right now he appears to be lying in wait.

Obviously the Big Ten would love to add Notre Dame, but I don’t see them joining a conference until their hand is forced by the BCS. They’ll sit this round out. Other candidates? Kansas, Missouri, UCONN, Syracuse and Rutgers. If the SEC grabs Missouri first, I think the Big Ten could add all four of the others. Kansas State doesn’t get to tag along with Kansas because of academics, and the other three make a nice triangle around New York. The Big Ten Network would love that. And remember, this isn’t about ratings. It’s about being able to tell advertisers you’re in a market.

Back to the ACC. I still think Texas to the ACC makes more sense than most think. Who comes with them? If I’m the ACC, I want Kansas. Which means I better get to them before the Big Ten or Pac-12 do. I don’t think Texas politicians will be able to force Texas Tech down the ACC’s throat along with Texas, and I don’t believe the ACC wants them.

Does the Pac-12 want to go to 16? Maybe they want Kansas and are willing to look past Kansas State’s academics to take them too. I’m not sold on this though. They won’t take BYU with their culture that ‘s not a perfect fit and their ban on Sunday athletics. They won’t take Boise State either, sorry Bronco fans.

I’m unconvinced we’re going to four 16-team super conferences. I think it’s a media creation that fans have latched onto because everyone thinks it sets up the system for a four-team playoff.  Conferences aren’t going to add unless the final picture involves more money for its members. Not every addition does that.

Think you know how it should all shake out? Try the conference realignment game Chadd Scott and I developed – Choose Your Own Adventure style!

Start Now!

Conference Realignment – Choose Your Own Adventure Style!

Remember those awesome choose-your-own-adventure novels from childhood?  How about a grown-up version related to college football?  Conference realignment remains the biggest story in college sports and now YOU can determine its landscape choosing who goes where.  But be careful, not all choices are equal; while some realignment decisions make conferences and teams stronger, others doom them to failure.

Start Now!

All the credit for this idea goes to Chadd Scott of SEC/ACC/C-USA site We spent hours pouring over scenarios and building this game. While not every possibility is covered, I think it’s a fun way to see how conference realignment is very much like a game of chess or Jenga!

Creating 16 Team Super Conferences For Football

UPDATE: Since conference realignment news and analysis is outdated within hours of putting it up, this post is certainly outdated. However, since it continues to get hits, I wanted to link over to my current thoughts: click here.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours moving teams around on a spreadsheet trying to make four 16-team super conferences for football. There are a lot of things you have to take into consideration when making such a list: geography, academics, culture, history, rivalries, and television market. Each addition must give the conference a compelling reason why they should divide their revenue pie into smaller slices.

To make such a list, you have to first decide what will prompt the much speculate move to four 16-team super conferences. I think it will happen because Texas decides to become an independent or because another team, like Texas A&M, leaves the Big 12. Either way, the Big 12 will crumble and other conferences will feast on what’s left.

It’s my belief that the end of the Big 12 signals the end of the Big East. The SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 will gobble up the best teams from the Big 12 quickly. The ACC will struggle to keep up. Most of the conferences will have to look outside the Big 12 to get to 16 teams, so they’ll pick apart the next weakest conference, the Big East. However, I don’t believe the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC will raid one another.

In the end, I decided there won’t be four 16-team super conferences. There will be two with 16 teams and two with 14 teams. The leftovers will either form their own league or look to other conferences like the Mountain West. Regardless of which of those scenarios happen, I’m not sure if they’d make the cut as BCS automatic-qualifiers.

I’ll give you my chart and then my reasoning:

SEC Big Ten Pac-12 ACC
Alabama Indiana Washington Virginia Tech
Auburn Michigan State Arizona State Clemson
Florida Purdue Oregon North Carolina
Georgia Michigan   USC North Carolina State
Arkansas Ohio State UCLA Georgia Tech
South Carolina Nebraska Cal Miami
Vanderbilt Norrthwestern Stanford Virginia  
Mississippi State Penn State Arizona   Duke
Ole Miss Illinois Colorado Maryland
LSU Iowa Oregon State Boston College
Kentucky Minnesota Utah Wake Forest
Tennessee Wisconsin Washington State Florida State
Texas A&M Rutgers  TCU Pitt
Missouri Syracuse Texas Tech West Virginia
Oklahoma UCONN    
Oklahoma State Kansas    

I started with the belief that Texas, BYU and Notre Dame will remain independent. Next, I decided Texas A&M would be the first acquisition. Texas A&M fans are already lobbying for a move to the SEC. With them I think you get Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That leaves the SEC with one slot to fill, and I think they fill it with Missouri, who the Big Ten already snubbed.

The Big Ten is left with nowhere to go but the Big East to grab schools that make sense to them both in terms of being worthy of splitting the pie with and fitting in academically and culturally. By adding Rutgers, Syracuse and UCONN, the Big Ten essentially creates a triangle around the NYC market. They add Kansas to even out their numbers with a school that’s academically palatable.

After much debate, I decided it doesn’t make sense for the Pac-12 or ACC to go to 16 teams. They’ll each only add two. The Pac-12 will add TCU and Texas Tech to get into the Texas market, both for media penetration and to get the conference into Texas for recruiting. There are no other schools it makes sense for them to add. Remember, anyone they add will have to bring enough to the table to make it worth splitting the pie into smaller pieces. I stand by my statements yesterday that Boise State doesn’t offer enough. They don’t offer a large media market or fertile recruiting ground. It doesn’t matter how many times Boise State has been on ESPN (the WAC’s tv contract was with ESPN, so of course ESPN put Boise State on tv). That doesn’t put money in the Pac-12’s collective pockets. ESPN is already going to air Pac-12 games every week because of their television contract with the conference. Does the Pac-12 care which of its two teams ESPN features on Saturday night? Nope. They still receive the same amount. Adding Boise State is unlikely to bring in enough additional money from a new television contract to merit splitting the entire revenue pie into smaller slices. USC is always going to have an audience, regardless of whether they’re having a winning season, because they’re a national brand with a history. Boise State cannot say the same.

The ACC will make additions in an attempt to stay relevant with the other three conferences, but because of their strict academic standards it’ll be tough. They’ll add Pitt because it makes sense geographically and academically and brings a solid media market. Then they’ll be forced to add one more school to round out at 14 schools. West Virginia is the addition, in my opinion, because of the rivalry with Pitt and geographic location. West Virginia doesn’t fit in perfectly in terms of academics or culture, but it’s the best the ACC will be able to do. Other possible targets would have been Louisville and Cincinnati, but the academics at both will keep them out of the ACC. Although Cincinnati would bring a considerable media market, the ACC would never be willing to overlook its academics.

This leaves quite a few teams out in the cold, including teams that are currently in AQ conferences. I believe those teams will either look to conferences like the Mountain West or form their own conference, which may or may not be AQ worthy. Here’s what a new conference could look like with those overlooked and some others from non-AQ conferences:

Iowa State
Kansas State
Southern Miss
East Carolina

If you’ve read this site for long, you know I like what Louisville and UCF are doing. Unfortunately, I don’t think they fit into any of the four super conferences. Despite the fact that Louisville has a fabulous basketball program and amazing facilities, that won’t get them into a football super conference. I just don’t think they’re strong enough academically to get an invite from the ACC.

I’d love to see other people’s lists for 16 team super conferences. I think if you sit down and really think through all the factors, you’ll find it difficult to accomplish.

Why Isn’t Return of Bowl/TV Money a Penalty for NCAA Infractions?

UPDATE: Based on the massive amounts of tweets and emails I have received since posting this, some clarification is in order. Many believe you all (my valued readers) are not smart enough to know that non-AQ teams individually receive less than AQ teams when the day is done. I believe you all know this. But, just in case you don’t, I’ve revised the information below to make it abundantly clear.

Listening to sports talk radio over the past couple of weeks I’ve heard quite a few people suggest that the only real punishment for a program like USC or Ohio State would be to hit them in the wallet. Quite a few of you believe there should be a return of tv and bowl payout money if a team has to vacate games. Let’s talk about why that will likely never be a penalty in college football.

First, here’s something important you should know, if you don’t already. How do the payouts work for BCS bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange) and the National Championship Game?

I bet many of you didn’t know the first team selected from one of the non-AQ conferences (MAC, WAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, C-USA) actually receives a larger, yes larger, amount than a team who automatically qualify from one of the AQ conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Big East). It’s true, although that’s before conferences get involved. The first team selected from a non-AQ conference receives $24.7 million* (see below for how this payout is handled). The automatic qualifiers from the six AQ conferences receive $21.2 million each. Any other AQ teams who play in BCS bowls take in $6 million each.

In fact, the non-AQ conferences receive money even if no team from a non-AQ conference is selected for a BCS bowl game, to the tune of $12.35 million. Whether the non-AQs have a team in and receive the $24.7 million, or receive the $12.35 million for not having a team in, they have decided amongst themselves to divide BCS monies evenly between all five conferences. That’s their choice.

Now, based on tweets and email received after I wrote this piece, I need to explain this a little bit further. It is true that the first non-AQ team selected for a BCS bowl receives more than an automatic qualifying team – but that’s before conferences get involved. Payouts are filtered through the conference the team belongs to, and the conference decides how to divide the payout. The non-AQ conferences have decided in an agreement amongst themselves to divide all BCS money equally between all conferences. By contrast, each AQ conference keeps what it receives and determines how to divide amongst the schools. Most subtract expenses of the team who participated and then divide the rest equally. At the end of the day, each AQ school receives more than each non-AQ school. But, I’m pretty sure you all knew that already.

Just for the sake of spreading knowledge, there are other teams who receive a BCS share even if they don’t compete. Notre Dame, for example, receives $6 million if they are chosen for a BCS bowl, but still receive $1.7 million even if they aren’t selected. Army and Navy each receive $100,000, even if not chosen for a BCS bowl. In addition, each FCS conference (who don’t even participate in the BCS) receive $250,000.

Now that we’ve covered how payouts work, make note that the NCAA has no involvement whatsoever. That’s the short answer as to why a return of bowl money isn’t part of any NCAA penalty. It’s out of their control.

The BCS would have to demand the return of bowl money. That’s not going to happen. I heard Bill Hancock on the radio months ago talking about USC’s penalties and he was asked why they weren’t taking back the payout received by USC for the BCS National Championship Game since the win was being vacated. It was pretty simple in his mind: if USC hadn’t played in that game, another Pac-10 team would have played in a BCS bowl since the Pac-10 gets an automatic berth. So, either way the Pac-10 would have gotten the same payout, because as I described above, the payout is the same whether you’re playing in the title game or any of the other four BCS bowls. Plus, the payout goes to the conference, not to the individual team. That makes it easy for the BCS to put the burden on the conferences. The Pac-10 would have to reclaim the funds from USC for the portion they received. That’s never going to happen.

Even as USC serves their bowl ban, they’re still receiving the same distribution from the now Pac-12 as they would receive if they were participating in bowls. The only real loss is the actual playing in the bowl, which I would imagine has a larger impact on the players than the institution. The school will still receive the same financial benefits from the conference, including a portion of the BCS payout to the conference.

The same is largely true when we talk about reclaiming television money as a penalty. It would have to be a conference level decision, and a conference is never going to penalize a team like that. However, the NCAA does have a penalty whereby they can ban a program from live television appearances. They haven’t used it since 1994, when Ole Miss was banned for one year. Most believe it’s no longer used because it impacts more than just the school being punished – the punishment is felt by every program that plays the school, especially FCS schools who are missing their shot to be on television and increase their profile.

I’m not defending the situation, but I hope I’ve shed some light on why a return of bowl or tv money is never discussed in terms of penalties levied by the NCAA.

*These are the numbers from the 2010-2011 season.

Why an Antitrust Suit is Unlikely to Bring Playoffs to College Football

Twice last week on Twitter I asked if you were tired of hearing about antitrust suits because I was considering writing a piece about why one brought against the BCS wouldn’t result in a playoff for college football. Despite hearing the word “antitrust” for months in conjuntion with the NFL, the unanimous response was that you wanted to hear more if it concerned what a suit would mean to college football as we know it.

If you’ve read my work, you probably know I like to play devil’s advocate on this topic. I believe an antitrust suit brought against the BCS has a slim chance of being successful and, more importantly, that even if it were successful, it would not result in a national championship playoff.

I can hear you already, “But, Kristi, the current system isn’t fair.” Therefore, it must violate antitrust law, right? Wrong. To understand, I need you to take off your fan hat and put on your CEO hat. College football is a business, like any other sport. It is run in a way that makes the most money for the people at the top. I have no idea why many fans think the sport’s power brokers – the top conference commissioners, TV partners, bowl officials – would voluntarily change to a system that would provide them with fewer benefits. They care about control and money, and they have both under the current system.

And here’s the key argument: Read the rest of this entry

Where Does Notre Dame Fall Financially?

After writing about the football finances of the SEC, Big Ten, ACC,  Pac-10, Big 12 and Big East, I found myself wondering where Notre Dame fit into the financial picture.  The numbers are drawn from schools’ reports to the U.S. Department of Education on the state of their athletic departments’ finances for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. See the note at the end for more details on the data.

I think we can all conceded that if Notre Dame were to join a conference for football, it would be the Big Ten. As you can see, Notre Dame would be the second-highest revenue generator of all Big Ten football programs:

  Football Revenue
Penn State Univ. $70,208,584.00
Notre Dame $64,163,063.00
Ohio State Univ. $63,750,000.00
Univ. of Michigan $63,189,417.00
Univ. of Iowa $45,854,764.00
Michigan State Univ. $44,462,659.00
Univ. of Wisconsin $38,662,971.00
Univ. of Minnesota $32,322,688.00
Univ. of Illinois $25,301,783.00
Northwestern Univ. $22,704,959.00
Indiana Univ. $21,783,185.00
Purdue Univ. $18,118,898.00


They would also come in second in terms of money spent on football:

  Football Expenses
Ohio State Univ. $31,763,036.00
Notre Dame $29,490,788.00
Univ. of Wisconsin $22,041,491.00
Penn State Univ. $19,780,939.00
Univ. of Iowa $18,468,732.00
Univ. of Michigan $18,328,233.00
Michigan State Univ. $17,468,458.00
Univ. of Minnesota $17,433,699.00
Northwestern Univ. $15,733,548.00
Indiana Univ. $12,822,779.00
Purdue Univ. $11,821,265.00
Univ. of Illinois $11,092,122.00


You’ve seen how they stack up with programs from the Big Ten, but how well is Notre Dame really doing? Read the rest of this entry